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From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond: 
The Quest for Identity and Autonomy 

in a Digital Society 

From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond 
The Quest for Identity and Autonomy 
in a Digital Society 

Edited hy 
John H. Clippinger 
David Bollier 

Published hy IDS 
in cooperation with Off the Common Books 

© 2014, ID3, Institute for Institutional Innovation by Data-Driven Design 

This book is licensed under a 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. 
See creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-sa-3.0/deed. 

ISBN 978-1-937146-58-0 

Published by ID3 

in cooperation with Off the Common Books, Amherst, Massachusetts. 

Chapter 1, "Social Computing and Big Data, " by Alex "Sandy" Pentland, is 
re-published here with the kind permission of Penguin Press, excerpted from 
Pentland's book. Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread - 
The Lessons from a New Science (2014). 


The Institute for Institutional Innovation by Data-Driven Design — ID3 is 

an independent research and educational nonprofit 501(c)(3) based in Boston 
and afiiliated with the M.I.T. Media Lab. Founded in 2011 by Dr. John Henry 
Clippinger and M.I.T. Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland, ID3's mission is to de- 
velop an open data ecosystem through research, education and the support of 
an open source service platform, Open Mustard Seed (OMS). This endeavor 
seeks to address the severe infrastructural and governance limitations of exist- 
ing institutions by giving individuals and groups greater control over their data, 
and the ability to deploy a new generation of trusted, decentralized, autono- 
mous organizations and institutions globally. 

Open Mustard Seed (OMS) is an open source platform that gives us genuine 
control over our own data. It lets us collect and share our personal information 
in a secure, transparent and accountable way, enabling authentic, trusted social 
and economic relationships to flourish. The system is dynamic and contextual, 
which means that we can share specific data at the appropriate time and place 
and with the people we want, and only them. By simply being ourselves, our 
data records generate unique, highly secure digital credentials — eliminating the 
need for passwords and repetitive log-ins. By helping us build decentralized au- 
tonomous organizations and trusted relationships, OMS enables groups to form 
and govern their own micro-economies — self-regulating, self-healing networks 
that can create their own forms of cooperation, including digital currencies, 
user-driven markets and social afiinity groups. OMS is thus a new vehicle for us 
to buOd and scale our own interoperable communities of interest and markets 
- intimately, securely and at a global scale. 


Acknowledgments ix 

Introduction x 

Part I: Charting the New Ecology of Data 

1. Social Physics and the Human Centric Society 3 

By Alex Pentland 

2. Why Self-Sovereignty Matters 1 1 

By John H. Clippinger 

3. The Next Great Internet Disruption: 

Authority and Governance 21 

By David Bollier and John H. Clippinger 

4. The New Mestieri Culture of Artisans 29 

By Maurizio Rossi 

5. Burning Man: 

The Pop-Up City of Self-Governing Individualists 36 

By Peter Hirshherg 

Part II: Digital Currencies as Instruments for Social Change 

6. The Internet of Money 63 

By Irving Wladawsky-Berger 

7. Why Complementary Currencies Are Necessary 

to Financial Stability: The Scientific Evidence 73 

By Bernard Lietaer 

8. Africa, Digital Identity and the Beginning 

of the End for Coins 92 

By Jonathan Ledgard 

9. Ven and the Nature of Money 97 

By Stan Stalnaker 

10. Green Coins: Using Digital Currency to Build 

the New Power Platform 104 

By Reed E. Hundt, Jeffrey Schub and Joseph R. Schottenfeld 

Part III: Open Architectures for an Open Society 

11. Organic Governance Through 

the Logic of Holonic Systems: 113 

By Mihaela Ulieru 

12. The Algorithmic Governance Of Common-Pool 
Resources 130 

By Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu 

13. The ID3 Open Mustard Seed Platform 143 

By Thomas Hardjono, Patrick Deegan and John H. Clippinger 

14. The Relational MatrrK:The Free and Emergent 
Organization of Digital Groups and Identities 160 

By Patrick Deegan 

15. The Necessity of Standards for the Open 

Social Web 177 

By Harry Halpin 


A Digital Manifesto: The Windhover Transition 191 

Index 195 


Simply stated, there would not have been a IDS, Open Mustard Seed, 
or even this volume without the generous, three year support of RR 
Donnelley & Sons Company. Special gratitude is due to Tom Quin- 
lan, the CEO of RR Donnelley & Sons Company, who has shown 
exceptional vision and leadership in his early support of ID3's open 
source mission long before personal data. Big Data, surveillance, and 
digital currencies were topics of keen public interest. 

Special thanks is also due to the M.I.T. Media Lab as a research 
collaborator, and to Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland, the cofounder 
of ID3, who has inaugurated a whole new area of research about 
personal data ecology and the social physics of human interaction. 
The ambition and rigor of Sandy's investigations into the social life 
of data has an ongoing impact on ID3's work and on the design of 
Open Mustard Seed 

Finally, we would Hke to thank all those who contributed to this 
volume, and who were part of the Windhover Transition dialogues. 
The enthusiasm, goodwill and creativity that our colleagues freely 
volunteered in addressing the themes of this volume were truly im- 
pressive. We came away not only inspired, but deeply convinced that 
the future of identity, autonomy and trusted community will be piv- 
otal issues in the years ahead. 


ing for a just, perfectible, and virtuous society. The recurrent chal- 
lenge to this dream is how to achieve such a goal in a secular, imper- 
fect world. For every optimistic vision (Plato's Republic, Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau's Social Contract, Ralph Waldo Emerson's very American 
ideal of "self reliance," Karl Marx classless society in Communist Man- 
ifesto, and B.F. Skinner's Walden IF) and there is the countervailing 
pragmatist, even cynic's skepticism (Niccolo MachiavelH's The Prince, 
Samuel Butler's Erewhon). Inevitably, such grand visions become 
dashed against the hard realities of the inherent weaknesses, indeed 
archaic drives, of human nature. 

These same tragic struggles are being played out today in West- 
ern societies, whose Enlightenment ideals of democratic rule seem 
to have run their course., A continuous flow of scientific findings 
are undermining many foundational claims about human rational- 
ity and perfectibility while exponential technological changes and ex- 
ploding global demographics overwhelm the capacity of democratic 
institutions to rule eflFectively and ultimately, their very legitimacy. 
Once-unimpeachable electoral processes have been corrupted, and 
hallowed institutional checks and balances circumvented. The age- 
old question of "Who guards the guards?" continues to confound hu- 
manity today as it did thousands of years ago. 

This fundamental question of how to design effective self-gov- 
ernance is what many, if not most, of the authors of this volume 
attempt to answer, each in in his or her own way. How we might 
design more effective, transparent, accountable and self-healing insti- 
tutions? As more of our personal and public lives become infused and 



shaped by data from sensors and computing devices, the distinctions 
between "the digital" and "the physical" have become increasingly 
blurred. From commerce and governance to education and social life, 
we are rapidly moving into an immersive societal ecology of data. 

This transition raises not just new possibilities for rethinking and 
redesigning primary institutions, but, in truth, a new imperative. The 
seemingly intractable problems that our democratic nations have 
in achieving social equity and scalable and effective government are 
problems that stem, fundamentally, from deficient governance struc- 
tures. Institutions that were invented in the 18th century are poorly 
equipped to deal with a 21st century society of instantaneous global 
communication, data-driven commerce, self-organized virtual com- 
munities and non-state digital currencies. The virtualization of so 
many basic functions of society, the rise of Big Data, and the ubiquity 
of computing essentially demand that we devise new rules or, better 
yet, new types of self-enforcing social contracts for all types of hu- 
man interaction and governance. 

Nowhere is this transition more pronounced than in the explosion 
of new ways to create and exchange money and to verify the identity 
of and monetize "digital assets." What once required the authority of 
a central bank or a sovereign authority can now be achieved through 
open, distributed crypto-algorithms. National borders, traditional le- 
gal regimes and human intervention are increasingly moot. Bitcoin's 
challenge to the banking world and Burning Man's challenge to so- 
cial convention are not isolated phenomena. They are harbingers of 
an inexorable change in how all aspects human affairs are going to 
be conducted and governed. They point to new types of governance 
institutions, new, more participatory roles for individuals and com- 
munities, and a new ethic and worldview. 

The rise of Bitcoin as the vanguard digital currency that can veri- 
fy and securely clear transactions instantaneously and costlessly is but 
the first salvo in an ongoing assault against legacy institutions - and 
not just financial institutions, but established institutions across all 
sectors. The efficiencies, convenience, accountability and pro-social 
potentials are simply too significant. Whether Bitcoin itself is here to 



Stay, or is but the first round in an ongoing, colossal social and eco- 
nomic experimentation, remains to be seen. 

What is clear is that we are seeing a new kind of highly distrib- 
uted, self-governing infrastructure that profoundly alters one of the 
most fundamental precepts of human social and economic organiza- 
tion - the formal recognition and management of identities, access 
rights to resources and the management of risk. In this new data ecol- 
ogy, virtually anything can become a "digital asset" - identities, cur- 
rencies, securities, contracts, mortgages, derivatives, goods, services, 
rewards, genome, licenses, titles, certificates, and much more. The 
identity, value and security of such assets can be verified through a 
variety of sophisticated new authentication and cryptographic meth- 
ods such as OpenID Connect, OAuth 2, "zero knowledge proofs," 
Byzantine Fault Tolerance, Merkel Trees, and homographic encryp- 
tion - opening the door for entirely new forms of social and market 

This "datafication of everything" is already having significant 
ramifications for existing institutions of government, commerce and 
international relations. After all, when all significant digital trans- 
actions and behaviors can be logged and monitored - and existing 
institutions are proving Hi-equipped to provide reliable, transparent 
governance and accountability - it is only natural that people will 
wish to develop new forms of digitally based regulation and gover- 
nance. Rather than resorting to cumbersome and ineffectual forms 
of regulatory oversight and intervention, such as "notification and 
consent," "do not coUect" lists and "data retention" directives, new 
digital platforms enable "performance based" regulation and gover- 
nance that can use government- sanctioned algorithms and APIs to 
provide more effective, less corruptible, real-time oversight. 

There are significant differences between this new "digital asset 
ecology" of the Internet and its "content and social media" predeces- 
sor. In social media, violations of privacy are often dismissed either 
as inexorable costs of modern life or nonconsequential matters - "get 
over it" events. But now the Internet has become a mission-critical in- 
frastructure for all forms of health, defense, financial, transportation 



and sovereign interactions. As a result, privacy and security take on a 
whole new meaning, gravity and urgency when verifying and trans- 
porting trillions of dollars for Central Banks or in controlling mili- 
tary assets such as people, satellites and drones. Failures of privacy 
- that is, unwanted and illegitimate surveillance, and the subversion 
of trusted connections, controls, relationships and institutions - are 
not casual matters, "get over it" events. They directly affect national 
security, sovereignty, and the trust and wealth of pillar institutions, 
thereby potentially invoking the exercise of naked "kinetic" power. 

The fusion of the physical and the digital in the new data ecology 
creates unprecedented opportunities for the design and testing of 
new kinds of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, Authorities and 
Enterprises. Rather than have essential institutional functions (such as 
credentialing, enrollment, authentication, authorization, regulatory 
oversight, auditing, enforcement, dispute resolution, market mak- 
ing and clearing) be physical and human-dependent processes, it is 
now possible, indeed, even necessary, to make such processes digi- 
tal, algorithmic, autonomous, transparent and self-correcting. This 
change not only raises the prospect for resolving the "who guards 
the guards" problem, it also has the potential to resolve a wide range 
of institutional challenges involving collective action, reputational 
integrity, systemic risk oversight, and the protected sharing of con- 
fidential data. 

When traditional governance institutions and mechanisms are 
embedded in a data ecology, many forms of corruption, collusion, 
fraud, free riders, deception and coercion issues can be addressed 
through the "mechanism design" of institutions, policies and practic- 
es. These autonomous mechanisms can provably resolve, or at least, 
reduce the incidence of these failures. What until the present has had 
to be framed as an intractable "political matter" around oversight, fair 
representation, rule making and adjudication, can now be replaced or 
at least supplemented by algorithms and software agents with highly 
focused, independent and accountable human oversight. 

From this perspective, institutional and regulatory design chal- 
lenges become "performance and evidence based" - not ideological 



or subject to hidden special interests. In this sense, the design of in- 
stitutional and governance mechanisms become a new category of 
social technology, one that is replicable, testable, scalable, and poten- 
tially a beneficiary of the "magic" of Moore's Law. It is hard to imag- 
ine a future in which governance is not regarded as an inevitable cost 
and source of failure, but rather a variable cost subject to technologi- 
cal innovation, and itself a creator of value! 

The Institute for Institutional Innovation by Data-Driven De- 
sign, or ID3, was formed in 2011 as an independent research and 
educational nonprofit 501(c)(3) based in Boston affiliated with the 
M.I.T. Media Lab. ID3's mission is to develop an open data ecosys- 
tem through research, education and the support of an open source 
service platform. Open Mustard Seed (OMS). This endeavor seeks 
to address the severe infrastructural and governance limitations of 
existing institutions by giving individuals and groups greater control 
over their data, and the ability to deploy a new generation of trusted, 
decentralized, autonomous organizations and institutions globally. 

The Plan of This Book 

This volume represents the contributions of eighteen different 
authors, many of whom have been involved with ID3 since its in- 
ception three years ago. The majority of the contributors attended 
a retreat last year in Jefferson, New Hampshire, where many of the 
topics discussed in this volume were discussed and debated. Out of 
that retreat emerged a shared sense of purpose and vision among 
the attendees that is reflected in a digital manifesto called The Wind- 
hover Transition, (see the Conclusion), named after John Clippinger's 
nearby farm. 

From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond is organized into three 
parts, representing three essential perspectives on how a new digital 
ecology might evolve. Part I, "Charting the New Ecology of Data," 
provides an introductory framework for understanding the power of 
distributed computing, the growth of mass participation and the rise 
of Big Data as a standard element - all of which are converging to 
create new sorts of institutions, governance and even human identity. 



One of the most important innovations to arise from these trends 
is explored in Part II, "Digital Currencies as Instruments for Social 
Change." This part of the book describes the importance of comple- 
mentary currencies, the significance of Bitcoin, and the other poten- 
tially transformative currencies that are now emerging, including the 
Ven, the proposed Impala for Africa and Green Coins to foster envi- 
ronmental improvements. 

Finally, Part III, "Open Architectures for an Open Society," ex- 
plores some of the conceptual and technical design issues that must 
be addressed in building an open, stable, civically robust and innova- 
tion-friendly future. The essays of this section build on the logic of 
the first two sections by explaining the importance of holistic system 
design ("holonics"), the lessons of self-governance for common-pool 
resources, and the ways in which Open Mustard Seed - the new soft- 
ware platform developed by IDS - seeks to empower users to control 
their own data and build their own trusted governance systems. 

The New Ecology of Data 

While traditional Enlightenment notions regard the rational in- 
dividual as the basic unit of a democratic polity and the economy. 
Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the Human Dynamics Group at 
the M.I.T Media Lab has found in his empirical research that social 
action and choice have other sources, effectively challenging and dis- 
crediting many core Enlightenment assumptions. 

Using data analytic and machine learning methods to analyze 
voice, text, and face-to-face interactions on mobile social networks, 
Pentland shows in Chapter 1 that human learning and collective ac- 
tion are more often than not influenced by one's peers and colleagues 
than by "rationality" or "individual choice." Pentland is currently pio- 
neering a new discipline, "Social Physics," whose goal is to identify 
the rules and "laws" the govern collective behavior and learning. 

These issues are especially timely because the world has seen a 
remarkable proliferation of peer-to-peer software, services and other 
activities. As I outline in Chapter 2, "Why Self-Sovereignty Matters," 
there is a new breed of services and protocols that I call The ODESS 
Stack, with ODESS standing for "Open-Distributed-Emergent-Se- 


cure-Self-Reflexive. ODESS modes of software and services are im- 
mensely popular because they do not require external institutional 
authorities - i.e., corruptible human third parties - to function ef- 
fectively. Rather they are "self-reflexive" in that they contain within 
themselves the necessary mechanisms to host, verify and clear trans- 
actions, and to audit themselves and self-correct errors and breaches. 
Their very design prevents them from violating their own operational 
policies, and as a result, they are highly resistant to outside manipula- 
tion and intrusion. 

This theme is explored further in David BoUier's and John CHp- 
pinger's essay, "The Next Big Internet Disruption: Authority and Gov- 
ernance," in Chapter 3. The crux of this piece is the insight by David 
Reed, formerly of the M.I.T Media Lab, that on open networks such 
as the Internet, greater value is generated through groups that are 
progressively more coherent and collaborative - or what Reed calls 
"Group Forming Networks," or GFNs. While the lowest level of val- 
ue-creation occurs through a broadcasting model based on "best con- 
tent," and a higher level of value can be generated through a network 
of peer-to-peer transactions based on collectives with the "most mem- 
bers," the most valuable networks, says Reed, are those that facilitate 
group ajjiliations. 

If we apply the logic of Reed's thinking to contemporary circum- 
stances, it is clear that the best way to unlock enormous stores of 
value on networks is to develop tools that can facilitate GFNs. As 
BoUier and Clippinger write: "This will be the next great Internet 
disruption. But to achieve this, we must develop a network architec- 
ture and software systems that can build trust and social capital in 
user-centric, scalable ways." A good way to help the Internet achieve 
its true growth and value potential is to adopt new mechanisms for 
authentication and governance. As a starting point, BoUier and Clip- 
pinger point to the eight design principles for managing commons- 
pool resources that the late Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom identified 
after decades of studying such forms of governance. 

This theme - the principles of self-gover nance, or "decentralized 
autonomous organization" (DAO) - recurs in other chapters in the 



book. It is seen most notably in Peter Hirshberg's history of the Burn- 
ing Man festival, in Chapter 5, and Jeremy Pitt's and Ada Diaconescu's 
essay "The Algorithmic Governance of Common-Pool Resources," 
in Chapter 12. Any successful commons, according to Ostrom's de- 
sign principles, must be able to define the boundaries of its commu- 
nity and governance; align the governance rules with local needs and 
conditions; and ensure that those affected by the rules can participate 
in modifying the rules. People must also be able to monitor compli- 
ance with rules, sanction free riders and vandals, and provide low- 
cost systems for resolving disputes - among other principles. 

As these opening chapters suggest, the new environment of open 
networks places a premium on relational patterns among people in- 
stead of simply transactional ones. In a more transparent, fluid en- 
vironment, the character of a community's culture takes on much 
greater significance. In Chapter 4, Maurizio Rossi argues in "The 
New Mestieri Culture of Artisans" that "each individual is becoming 
a peer in a larger community - a personal producer and entrepreneur 
who uses a variety of platforms to carry on a variety of relationships 
- not just among humans, but with machines." 

Rossi sees this as contributing to a revival of artisan culture, the 
Mestieri, which stiU thrives in his home country, Italy, through its em- 
phasis on craftsmanship and high design. He sees artisan culture be- 
coming "supremely efificient, not to mention customer-friendly be- 
cause its design, production and retailing wiU take advantage of the 
modularity made possible by open networks." Rossi also sees brand- 
ing itself as changing, becoming less propriety and closed, and more 
open - something that is not owned exclusively by a company, but 
belonging to the "collaborative community of artisans, companies, 
suppliers and customers, all of whom participate in the shared eco- 
system." He contends that "open brands will have a social authentic- 
ity - a credibility and depth - that is rarely associated with branded 
products today." 

The importance of culture in the new modes of self-governance 
is underscored as well by Peter Hirshberg in his fascinating profile 
of the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. Now twenty-eight 



years old, the annual Burning Man gathering attracts more than 
60,000 people irom around the world for a week-long encampment, 
celebration and participation in a "pop-up city." Hirshberg chronicles 
the evolution of Burning Man irom a somewhat chaotic, "Mad Max" 
kind of anarchy to a robust, thriving transformational community 
that is influencing all sorts of "real world" innovations in urban de- 
sign and self-governance. 

"Once we eliminated firearms, invented the Greeters, repur- 
posed and reorganized the Rangers, created a street grid, regulated 
traffic, increased population densities, and gave everyone an address," 
said founder Larry Harvey, "people coiald more freely interact; theme 
camps tripled, villages thrived, entire neighborhoods began to come 

Though a decentralized and anarchistic community. Burning 
Man also learned the importance of intense centralized planning and 
shared culture as ways to enable the flourishing of decentralized par- 
ticipation. Burning Man's Ten Principles oflFer valuable guidance to 
those who wish to buUd the world anew, by declaring the importance 
of radical inclusion, a culture of unconditional gift-giving, an ethic 
of decommodification and non-commercialism, radical self-reliance, 
radical self-expression and civic responsibility, among other principles. 

Digital Currencies as Instruments for Social Change 

In Part II, we shift gears by focusing on the dramatic proliferation 
of digital currencies in contemporary life. This is exemplified most 
vividly by Bitcoin, but it can also be seen in many other digital cur- 
rencies, from Ripple to Ven to the M-Pesa. 

While the new currencies may be disruptive and in some instan- 
ces troubling (such as the money-laundering capabilities of Bitcoin), 
they are also pioneering some new, more efficient and socially con- 
structive mechanisms of exchange. 

In Chapter 6, "The Internet of Money," Irving Wladawsky-Berg- 
er, a veteran of innovation and strategy at IBM who is now Strategic 
Advisor to Citi, provides an excellent introduction to the phenom- 
enon of digital currencies and the regulatory and business issues they 
raise. The new currencies are remarkable in their capacity to "decen- 



tralize trust" with advanced cryptographic techniques and distribut- 
ed architectures; the money does not require third-party authorities 
to vouch for the security and integrity of the currencies themselves. 
But this also creates vexing policy issues because the new currencies 
are an unprecedented new kind of asset class - digital assets - that 
can be valued and exchanged on a global scale. 

Regulators are challenged as to how to classify digital currencies. 
On the one hand the Internal Revenue Service has classified Bitcoin 
as a kind of property and asset, whose increases and decreases in val- 
ue have to be accounted for and taxes paid on. Given that Bitcoin has 
been rather volatile in its history, this classification makes it impracti- 
cal to use as a payment currency. The office of the U.S. Treasury De- 
partment, which regulates money, on the other had, classifies Bitcoin 
as a currency, which thereby requires that it comply with Know Your 
Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. It 
seems that Bitcoin occupies the worst of both worlds! 

It will take time and ingenuity for existing systems of money to 
accommodate the newcomers, but as Bernard Lietaer reminds us, we 
should welcome a diversification of currencies in the world economy. 
In Chapter 7, Lietar makes the important observation that efficiency 
in complex flow systems like money must be balanced with resilience, 
defined as the capacity to adapt to changes in the environment and 
survive serious disruptions. This is the essence of sustainabiUty 

Seen in this holistic perspective, a monoculture of currencies is 
dangerously unstable because "an excessive focus on efficiency will 
tend to create exactly the kind of bubble economy that we have 
been able to observe repeatedly in every boom and bust cycle in his- 
tory. ..." If we regard the global monetary system as a "complex flow 
system," Lietaer observes, then we can see that its sustainability is 
based on "the emergent properties of its structural diversity and in- 
terconnectivity." For the monetary system, this suggests the need for 
governments to move away from "a monoculture of a single type of 
money," and begin to accept other types of currencies, besides con- 
ventional bank-debt national money. 



Three additional chapters explore the fascinating capabilities of 
specific currency innovations. Jonathan Ledgard, Director of Future 
Africa at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Africa corre- 
spondent-at-large for The Economist, proposes the creation of a pan- 
African digital currency that would use peer-to-peer technology to 
enable low-value transactions via smartphones. As Ledgard explains 
in Chapter 8, the currency could be adapted to local contexts but in 
any case would help users build credit histories to secure micro-loans 
for schooling, healthcare and housing. It could also be used by gov- 
ernments and aid agencies to verify their disbursements of money in 
more accurate, inexpensive ways. 

In Chapter 9, Stan Stalnaker, the founding director of Hub Cul- 
ture and Ven currency, describes the origins of Ven, the first real 
digital currency - founded in 2007 - and now an Internet reserve cur- 
rency. As a commodity -backed currency, Ven are notable for their sta- 
ble value, global reach, security and support for green initiatives. In 
Chapter 10, the idea of a green currency - Green Coins - is proposed 
by former FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt who is now CEO of the 
Coalition for Green Capital, and his associates at the Coalition, Jeffrey 
Schub and Joseph R. Schottenfeld. Working through the nonprofit 
Coalition for Green Capital, the authors are exploring how a solar 
cryptocurrency based on some of the design principles of Bitcoin, 
especially a distributed ledger, might be used to incentivize the adop- 
tion of solar power, especially among homeowners. 

Open Architectures for an Open Society 

The final section of From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond con- 
templates the design architectures on open networks that are needed 
to improve institutional performance and enhance individual free- 
dom while bolstering the entire system's stability and resilience. 
These issues are examined in some of the preceding chapters, espe- 
cially Bernard Lietaer's chapter on complex systems and currencies, 
but here the authors focus on system protocols and software design. 

Holonics theorist Mihaela UHeru opens Part III by introducing 
the logic of holonic systems in Chapter 1 1 . She writes: 'A recurrent 
problem is our failure to understand that human endeavors are part 


of holistic, living systems, natural and constructed, whose constitu- 
tive elements are mutually defining, expressive and constantly evolv- 
ing. In actual circumstances, the individual cannot be cast as against, 
below or above the group; the individual is in fact nested within dy- 
namic forms of social organization. Living organisms have subjec- 
tivities, inter-subjectivities and behaviors that are nested within larger 
living systems." 

Once we accept this general scenario as real, it has profound im- 
plications for the (misleading) Newtonian conception of the universe 
and its cause-and-effect logic and crude narratives. Ulieru's mission 
as a holonics scholar is to jolt us out of our conventional understand- 
ings of physical and human dynamics, and point us to the complex, 
dynamic rules and laws of self-organizing systems. She helps us to 
understand the limitations of organizational hierarchies and to ap- 
preciate institutions as living systems embedded in larger social and 
ecological contexts. 

By adopting this perspective, we can begin to blend multiple sci- 
entific and humanistic disciplines and focus on the role of the holarchy 
to understand how emergent, self-organized agents can collaborate in 
advancing a common purpose. Ulieru is giving us a richer theoretical 
understanding of what happens on the World Wide Web every day. 
The challenge is how we might use these principles to build more ef- 
fective organizations, foster ecological stewardship and unleash more 
generative human relationships. 

Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu, computer scientists at Imperial 
CoUege London and Telecom ParisTech, respectively, offer a fascinat- 
ing analysis of how they are applying Elinor Ostrom's design prin- 
ciples for the allocation of common-pool resources to the design of 
software. Their engineering goal is to provide "an algorithmic basis 
for governance of common-pool resources in electronic social sys- 
tems." In Chapter 12, Pitt and Diaconescu explain their interest in 
blending the capabilities of software platforms with the dynamics of 
living social systems, resulting in "socio-technical systems" that em- 
body the ODESS principles (Open-Distributed-Emergent-Secure- 
Self-Reflexive) described by John H. CUppinger earlier in the book. 


This is not an easy challenge, but it is a direction that is validated by 
Professor Ostrom's study of common-pool resources, people's actual 
behaviors on open platforms, and the value proposition of networks 
described by theorist David Reed, as noted. 

So how to devise an information-communications technology 
framework that can implement Ostrom's rules? Pitt and Diaconescu 
argue that we need to devise algorithmic frameworks as a "meso-lev- 
el of governance" that can mediate between micro-levels of self-or- 
ganized governance and macro-level outcomes that may be incoher- 
ent or undesirable. This could be the basis for a new kind of "social 
ergonomics" on self-governance platforms. 

Open Mustard Seed, or OMS, is a bold attempt to fulfill many of 
the principles outlined by Ulieru, Pitt and Diaconescu, among other 
theorists. OMS aims to become a versatile platform for people to de- 
velop their own ODESS-based social ecosystems on open networks. 
The centerpiece of OMS is its capacity to let people share all their 
personal data within a legally constituted "trust framework" and self- 
initiated "personal data stores" (PDS) that can securely store and pro- 
cess data about themselves. 

The general technical framework of OMS is outlined in Chap- 
ter 13 by Thomas Hardjono, Technical Lead and Executive Director 
of the M.I.T Consortium for Kerberos and Internet Trust; Patrick 
Deegan, Chief Technology Officer of IDS and Lead Architect of 
OMS; and John H. Clippinger, Executive Director and CEO of ID3 
and Research Scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab Human Dynamics 
Group. Hardjono et al. describe how the various elements of the trust 
framework - open authentication, storage, discovery, payment, audit- 
ing, market making and monetized "app store" services - aU work 
together in an integrated fashion. What makes OMS so distinctive is 
its "privacy by design" principles - that is, absolute privacy, security 
and trusted exchange are built into the very design of the system. 

In Chapter 14, Chief Technology Officer of IDS Patrick Deegan 
takes us more deeply into the theoretical and operational principles 
behind OMS. In "The Relational Matrix," Deegan notes that the In- 
ternet's initial architecture made no provisions for a secure, viable 



identity infrastructure or the means by which individuals could assert 
control over their personal data. He argues that because the current 
infrastructure cannot be simply uprooted and replaced, any envi- 
sioned "authentication, privacy and sharing layer" has to grow organ- 
ically on top of the existing layer. Fortunately, this is now possible by 
combining technologies for the self-deployment and administration 
of services with new encryption, identity authentication and access 
controls technologies and protocols. The Open Mustard Seed (OMS) 
platform represents an open source effort to enable such an architec- 
ture on a global scale. 

To assure that these new types of self-organized governance can 
take root and blossom on the Web, Harry Halpin argues that the 
logic of digitization and open networks requires a "new grammar" 
of open standards to assure that freedom and innovation can flour- 
ish. Halpin is Research Scientist at the World Wide Web Consortium 
(W3C/M.I.T.), where he leads efforts in cryptography and social 
standards. Halpin writes that an open social Web is critical to the fu- 
ture of self-organized behaviors and secure digital identity: "To pre- 
vent the centralization of our data in the hands of a neo-feudal digi- 
tal regime and all the dangers that this entails, we urgently need to 
construct a new ecosystem of open standards to allow secure forms 
of digital identity that everyone from individuals to institutions can 
deploy without being 'locked-in to existing players." 

The Windhover Transition 

In August 2013, ID3 invited fifteen leading thinkers, program- 
mers, tech experts and entrepreneurs to meet for a three-day retreat 
in Jefferson, New Hampshire, to try to name, capture and distill the 
logic of the digital culture now emerging. This book is one result of 
that convocation; another, far more succinct result was The Wind- 
hover Transition. This statement was an attempt to describe the 
broad, general contours of the transition that we are now experienc- 
ing and issue a call to step up to meet its promise and challenges. 

This book concludes, therefore, with that manifesto. It is our 
hope that the Windhover Transition statement and this book will 
help reframe some of the conversations about the future and stimu- 


late new initiatives to actualize the vision that so many of us see. The 
details of the emerging paradigm and many of its elements are not 
entirely clear. Yet the deeper principles and prevailing trends seem 
quite powerful and demonstrable, and lead us to the major question: 
How soon will we recognize these deeper currents and reorient our 
energies and imaginations to take advantage of them? 

John H. Clippinger 
David Bollier 

Boston, Massachusetts 
June 1, 2014 



Chapter I 

Social Physics and the Human Centric Society 

By Alex Pentland 

The free market model for society has its roots in 18th-century no- 
tions of natural law: the idea that humans are self-interested and self- 
commanded and that they relentlessly seek to gain from the exchange 
of goods, assistance and favors in all social transactions. Open com- 
petition for such theoretical individuals is a natural way of life, and if 
all the costs (e.g., pollution, waste) are taken into account, then the 
dynamics of open competition can result in an efficient society. As 
Adam Smith explained: 

They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same 
distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been 
made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all 
its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing 
it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the 
multiplication of the species.[l] 

The power of markets to distribute resources efficiently — togeth- 
er with the assumption that humans are relentless competitors — is 
the bedrock of most modern societies. It works well for stocks and 
commodities, and reasonably well for wages and housing. The con- 
temporary trend is to apply market thinking to all sectors of soci- 
ety. But does this 18th-century understanding of human nature truly 
form a good model for all of these sectors of our modern society? I 
think not. 

The Real World Isn't A Market, It Is An Exchange Network 

Perhaps the major flaw in the free-market view of human na- 
ture is that people are not simply self-interested, self-commanded 



individuals. What we are interested in, and our command mecha- 
nism itself, is overwhelmingly determined by social norms created 
by interactions with other people. Modern science now understands 
that cooperation is just as important and just as prevalent in human 
society as competition. Our friends watch our backs in sports and 
business teammates cooperate to win against other teams, and ev- 
erywhere people support family, children and the elderly. In fact, the 
main source of competition in society may not be among individuals 
but rather among cooperating groups of peers 

Moreover, recent economics research has shown that the basic 
assumption within classic market thinking — that there are many sell- 
ers and buyers that can be substituted for each other easily — does not 
apply even to economies such as that of the U.S. [2] Instead, we shoiald 
think of the economy as an exchange network: a complex web of spe- 
cific exchange relationships. In fact the idea of a market, in which 
it is imagined that all the participants can see and compete evenly 
with everyone else, is almost always an oversimplification. In reality 
some people have better connections, some people know more than 
others, and some purchases are more difficult than others, due to dis- 
tance, timing, or other secondary considerations. 

Just as financial markets and the invisible hand are an oversim- 
plification, so is the idea that political competition produces a "mar- 
ket of ideas" that somehow results in good government. Political or 
economic labels such as "bourgeoisie," "working class," "libertarian" 
are often inaccurate stereotypes of groups of people who actually 
have widely varying individual characteristics and desires. As a result, 
reasoning about society in terms of classes or parties is imprecise and 
can lead to mistaken overgeneralizations. In the real world, a group 
of people develops deeply similar norms only when they have both 
strong interactions and they recognize each other as peers. 

Modern Natural Law: Exchanges, Not Markets 

Why is the real world made up of exchange networks rather than 
markets? In a word: trust. 

Relationships in an exchange network quickly become stable (we 
go back again and again to the person who gives us the best deal). 

Pentland \ Social Physics 


and with stability comes trust, i.e., the expectation of a continued 
valuable relationship. This is different than in a typical market, where 
a buyer may deal with a different seller every day as prices fluctuate. 
In exchange networks, buyers and sellers can more easily build up 
the trust that makes society resilient in times of great stress. In mar- 
kets, one must usually rely on having access to an accurate reputation 
mechanism that rates all the participants, or to an outside referee to 
enforce the rules. 

This insight comes from what I call social physics: using game 
theory to mathematically examine the properties of human societies, 
such as comparing a society based on exchange networks with one 
based on markets. For instance, the equations from the thesis of my 
PhD student Ankur Mani show that the dynamics of exchange net- 
works structurally favor fair outcomes, with the surplus generated 
by the relationship equally divided between the individuals involved. 
[3] As a consequence of fairness, there is more stability and greater 
levels of trust. Exchange networks are also more cooperative, robust 
and resilient to outside shocks. Social physics provides a good recipe 
for building a society that wrU survive. 

Adam Smith thought that the invisible hand was due to a market 
mechanism that was constrained by peer pressure within the com- 
munity. In the succeeding centuries we have tended to emphasize the 
market mechanism and forgotten the importance of the peer pres- 
sure part of his idea. Social physics strongly suggests that the invisible 
hand is more due to the trust, cooperation and robustness proper- 
ties of the person-to-person network of exchanges than it is due to 
any magic in the workings of the market. If we want to have a fair, 
stable society, we need to look to the network of exchanges between 
people, and not to market competition. 

How can we move from a market-centric to a 
human-centric society? 

So how does this idea of an exchange society apply to modern 
life? Today we have mass media to spread information, and our much 
higher levels of mobility allow us to interact with many more people. 
Information is so universally available and our social networks are 



extremely broad. Do these facts mean that we have transitioned from 
an exchange society to a market society? I think the answer is no. 

Even though we now have much greater breadth and rate of in- 
teraction, our habits still depend mostly on interactions with a few 
trusted sources — those people whom we interact with frequently — 
and for each person the number of such trusted individuals remains 
quite small. In fact, the evidence is that the number of trusted peers 
that we have today is pretty much the same as it was tens of thou- 
sands of years ago.[4] 

This small, relatively stable network of trusted peers still domi- 
nates our habits of eating, spending, entertainment, political behav- 
ior — and technology adoption. Similarly, face-to-face social ties drive 
output in companies and accounts for the productivity and creative 
output of the largest cities. This means that the spread of new behav- 
iors throughout society is still dominated by local, person-to-person 
exchanges even in the presence of modern digital media and modern 
transportation. We stiU live in an exchange society, albeit one with 
much greater levels of exploration. 

How can we use these insights about human nature to design a 
society better suited to human nature? Economic theory still provides 
a useful template for shaping our society, but we have to begin with a 
more accurate notion of human nature. Because we are not just eco- 
nomic creatures, our vision of a human-centric society must include 
a broader range of human motivations - such as curiosity, trust, and 
social pressure. 

Social physics suggests that the first step is to focus on the flow of 
ideas rather than on the flow of wealth, since the flow of ideas is the 
source of both cultural norms and innovation. A focus on improving 
idea flow, rather than financial flows, will allow individuals to make 
better decisions and our society to develop more useful behavioral 
norms. A key insight from social physics is that it is critical that the 
flow and exchange of ideas be inclusive, because insufficiently diverse 
idea flow leads to rigid and insular societies, and insular communi- 
ties (including the society of Adam Smith's time) often inflict terrible 
damage on weaker communities with whom they share resources. 

Pentland \ Social Physics 


Idea Flow 

Idea flow is the spreading of ideas, whether by example or story, 
through a social network — be it a company, a family, or a city. Being 
part of this flow of ideas allows people to learn new behaviors with- 
out the dangers or risks of individual experimentation. People can 
also acquire large integrated patterns of behavior without having to 
form them gradually through laborious experimentation. 

In fact, humans rely so much on our ability to learn from the 
ideas that surround us that some psychologists refer to us as Homo 
imitans. The collective intelligence of a community comes from idea 
flow; we learn from the ideas that surround us, and others learn from 
us. Over time, a community with members who actively engage with 
each other creates a group with shared, integrated habits and beliefs. 
Idea flow depends upon social learning, and indeed, this is the basis 
of social physics: Our behavior can be predicted from our exposure to 
the example behaviors of other people. 

Because "idea flow" takes into account the variables of a social 
network structure, the strength of social influence between people, 
and individual susceptibilities to new ideas, it also serves another vital 
role: It gives a reliable, mathematical prediction of how changing any 
of these variables will change the performance of all the people in the 
network. Thus, the mathematical framework of idea flow allows us 
to tune social networks in order to make better decisions and achieve 
better results. 

For example, what can be done when the flow of ideas becomes 
either too sparse and slow or too dense and fast? How does the "explo- 
ration" process — using social networks to search for ideas and then 
winnow them down to just a few good ones — result in a harvest of 
ideas that produces good decisions? Is this just a random recombina- 
tion of ideas with little contribution from our individual intelligences, 
or are there strategies that are critical to successful exploration? The 
mathematics of social physics lets us answer these questions. 

How Can We Harvest the Best Ideas? 

The exploration process is fundamentally a search for new ideas 
within one's social network, so to understand how to find the best 



ideas I launched two big data studies that contain almost two million 
hours of interaction data covering everyone within two communities 
for a total of over two years. These studies allowed me to build quan- 
titative, predictive models of how we humans find and incorporate 
new ideas into our decisions. 

The studies paint a picture of humans as sailors. We all sail in a 
stream of ideas, ideas that are the examples and stories of the peers 
who surround us; exposure to this stream shapes our habits and be- 
liefs. We can resist the flow if we try, and even choose to row to an- 
other stream, but most of our behavior is shaped by the ideas we are 
exposed to. The idea flow within these streams binds us together into 
a sort of collective intelligence, one comprised of the shared learning 
of our peers. 

The continual exploratory behavior of humans is a quick learn- 
ing process that is guided by apparent popularity among peers. In 
contrast, adoption of habits and preferences is a slow process that re- 
quires repeated exposure and perceptual validation within a commu- 
nity of peers. Our social world consists of the rush and excitement of 
new ideas harvested through exploration, and then the quieter and 
slower process of engaging with peers in order to winnow through 
those ideas, to determine which should be converted into personal 
habits and social norms. 

I think of organizations as a group of people sailing in a stream 
of ideas. Sometimes they are sailing in swift, clear streams where the 
ideas are abundant, but sometimes they are in stagnant pools or ter- 
rifying whirlpools. At other times, one person's idea stream forks off, 
splitting it apart from other people and taking them in a new direc- 
tion. To me, this is the real story of community and culture; the rest 
is just surface appearance and illusion. 

When the flow of ideas incorporates a constant stream of out- 
side ideas as well, then the individuals in the community make better 
decisions than they could on their own. To bring new ideas into a 
work group or community, however, there are three main things to 

Pentland \ Social Physics 


Social learning is critical. Copying other people's successes, when 
combined with individual learning, is dramatically better than 
individual learning alone. When your individual information 
is unclear, rely more on social learning; when your individual 
information is strong, rely less on social learning. 

One disturbing implication of these findings is that our hyper- 
connected world may be moving toward a state in which there 
is too much idea flow. In a world of echo chambers, fads and 
panics are the norm, and it is much harder to make good deci- 
sions. We need to pay much more attention to where our ideas 
are coming from, and we should actively discount common 
opinions and keep track of the contrarian ideas. (We can buUd 
software tools to help us do this automatically but to do so we 
have to keep track of the provenance of ideas.) 

Contrarians are important. When people are behaving indepen- 
dently of their social learning, it is likely that they have inde- 
pendent information and that they believe in that information 
enough to fight the effects of social influence. Find as many of 
these "wise guys" as possible and learn from them. 

Such contrarians sometimes have the best ideas, but sometimes 
they are just oddballs. How can you know which is which? If 
you can find many such independent thinkers and discover that 
there is a consensus among a large subset of them, then a really, 
really good strategy is to follow the "contrarian consensus." 

Diversity is important. When everyone is going in the same di- 
rection, then it is a good bet that there isn't enough diversity 
in your information and idea sources, and you should explore 
further. A big danger of social learning is groupthink. To avoid 
groupthink and echo chambers, you have to compare what the 
social learning suggests with what isolated individuals (who 
have only external information sources) are doing. If the so- 
called common sense from social learning is just an overconfi- 
dent version of what isolated people think, then you are likely 



in a groupthink or echo chamber situation. In this case, a sur- 
prisingly good strategy is to bet against the common sense. 

But it is also important to diversify by considering more than 
one strategy at a time because, as our environment changes, the 
old strategies stop working and new strategies take the lead. 
Therefore, it is not the strategies that have been most success- 
ful that you want to follow; it is really the strategies that will be 
most successful that you have to find. And since predicting the 
future is hard, diversification of social learning is important. 

In summary, people act like idea-processing machines combining 
individual thinking and social learning from the experiences of oth- 
ers. Success depends greatly on the quality of your exploration and 
that, in turn, relies on the diversity and independence of your infor- 
mation and idea sources. By harvesting from the parts of our social 
network that touch other streams, that is, by crossing what sociolo- 
gist Ron Burt called the "structural holes" within the fabric of society, 
we can create innovation. When we choose to dip into a different 
stream, we bring up new habits and beliefs, and it is these innovations 
that help us make better decisions, and help our community to thrive. 

Alex Pentland directs M.I. T. 's Human Dynamics Laboratory and the M.I. T. Media 
Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and 
Personal Data Initiatives. His research group and entrepreneurship program have spun 
off more than thirty companies to date. In 2012 Forbes named Pentland one of the seven 
most powerful data scientists in the world. 

This chapter is excerpted from Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread - The Les- 
sons from a New Science (Penguin Press, 2014) with permission. 


[1] Smith, A., Theory of Moral Sentiments (First Edition, 1759; Penguin Classics, 2009). 

[2] Acemoglu, D., V Carvalho, A. Ozdaglar, and A. Tahbaz-Salehi, "The Network 
Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica 80 (5), pp. 1977-2016 (2012). 

[3] Mani, A., A. Pentland, and A. Ozdalgar, "Existence of Stable Exclusive Bilateral 
Exchanges in Networks" (2010). See 

[4] Dunbar, R., "Neocortex Size as a Constraint on Group Size in Primates," Journal 
of Human Evolution 20(6), pp. 469-493 (1992). 

Chapter 2 

Why Self-Sovereignty Matters 

By John H. Clippinger 

It has been said that "he who enrolls, controls." Any "authoritative" 
party that defines and selectively confers "credentials" to access val- 
ued resources, privileges and rights - e.g., a bank, state, religious 
body or social website - exercises enormous power, ofi;en with little 
democratic oversight. Since such powers are extremely difficult to 
oversee and regulate, they eventually become a point of institutional 
failure. The old adage Who guards the guards themselves? (Quis custodiet 
ipsos custodes?) toltimately rears its ugly head and the "guards" become 
the overlords, a clique of self-perpetuating, self-serving beneficiaries. 
It is a historically tried dictum that the human oversight of human 
fi'ailties inevitably succumbs to human frailties. 

The Rise of Self-Correcting, Evolvable Institutions 

In the struggle to give people greater dignity and control over 
their online lives (which increasingly encompass their offline lives as 
well), the classic institutions of authority - financial, educational, en- 
terprise, religious, governmental - are failing. They are variously too 
slow, hierarchical, corrupted or socially disconnected to perform their 
assigned tasks as conscientious policymakers and respected guardians 
of their segment of the social order. 

This failure of authoritative institutions constitutes one of the 
biggest challenges to human freedom in the digital era. It is such a 
fundamental point of failure across all sectors that it is unlikely to be 
resolved within existing institutional structures. [1] Yet growing pub- 
lic alarm over unchecked governmental and corporate surveillance 
and control is spurring the quest for innovative forms of governance 
that can effectively protect and express human rights. 



A case in point is the "alpha geek" community's enthusiasm for 
Bitcoin, Ripple, digital currencies and encrypted peer-to-peer ser- 
vices. These services and protocols are instances of what I call The 
ODESS Stack (Open-Distributed-Emergent-Secure-Self-Reflexive), a 
set of distinctive software endowed with autonomous features. The 
fervent popularity of ODESS services arises from the fact that they 
do not require external institutional authorities - i.e., corruptible hu- 
man third parties - to function. Rather they are "self-reflexive" in that 
they contain within themselves the necessary mechanisms to host, 
verify and clear transactions, and to audit themselves and self-correct 
errors and breaches. By virtue of their inherent design, they cannot 
violate their own policies and they are highly fortified against outside 
manipulation and intrusion. In Bitcoin's case, this means that it will 
issue no more than 21 million bitcoins and it will have a "block chain" 
register that is complete and transparent. To their supporters, these 
"algorithmic" "math-based institutions" are more trustworthy than 
their flesh-and-blood counterparts, such as Central Banks and gov- 

It is tempting to dismiss the interest in ODESS protocols and ser- 
vices as a simple case of Digital Libertarianism, especially because 
there is certainly an Ayn Rand faction within these circles. But the 
ODESS approach to authority and legitimacy really transcends the 
traditional left /right ideological spectrum. The growing shift to al- 
gorithmically complete and self-contained services represents a more 
pragmatic, performance-based approach to governance and institu- 
tional design. In systems that are inherently experimental, empirical 
and technologically based, traditional ideological presumptions have 
little standing. Pragmatic outcomes and personal empowerment are 
the sine qua non. 

ODESS protocols and platforms are really outgrowths of a new 
generation of communications and control technologies. It turns out 
that the convergence of open platforms, social networking. Big Data 
and encryption innovations allows us to address many social and eco- 
nomic problems that simply could not be seen or addressed under the 
regnant system of authoritative institutions. 

Clippinger \ Why Self Sovereignty Matters 


Never before has it been possible to self-consciously design and 
test at scale new forms of social technologies with rapid iterations 
and innovation. Before it was possible to represent and express hu- 
man activities digitally, the social and economic sciences were pro- 
foundly constrained in what they could imagine theoretically or test 
experimentally. This is no longer the case. Now it is possible to self- 
consciously design and test at scale new forms of social technologies 
with rapid iterations and ongoing improvements. Much of today's 
large-scale social and economic innovation is not being done within 
academia or government, but by technologically innovative compa- 
nies that have the sophistication to exploit open networks, social net- 
working and Big Data. 

The automation of key control functions in trains, missiles, 
planes, boats and cars is already upon us, and fully autonomous ter- 
restrial and aerial drones are not that far off. The march of autono- 
mous control and self-organizing technologies is leading to a whole 
new class of services and protocols that obviate the need for tradi- 
tional "authoritative" institutions for governance and control. Instead 
of presuming the need for active human oversight, whether through 
physical, regulatory or legal means, the goal that is emerging among 
so many ODESS systems is autonomic design: social and economic 
control/ governance mechanisms that are intended to perform to an 
explicit standard and that can correct and improve their performance 
when they fail. Self-adaptive machine learning makes it possible for 
systems to learn from their mistakes and evolve to improve their per- 

In the face of institutional failures, respectable opinion generally 
focuses on reforming traditional "democratic" processes such as vot- 
ing, legislation, adjudication, licensing, litigation and regulatory pro- 
cedures. But these modes of governance are increasingly ineffective 
artifacts of a bygone era. They presume social realities that may not 
exist (perfect information, rational consumers) while failing to take 
account of ubiquitous new realities such as socially driven behavior 
using digital technologies on open networks. 



Fortxinately, ODESS platforms are pointing the way to entirely 
more competent, participatory and trustworthy types of authority 
systems and institutions. Self-correcting, evolvable institutional de- 
signs are starting to provide more effective, adaptive and resilient 
social and economic institutions. This goal should be the focus of 
governance design and innovation in the future. 

How Does Self-Sovereign Authentication Work? 

Let us circle back for a moment to explain the "atomic founda- 
tion" upon which the new ODESS services and institutions are based: 
self-sovereign authentication. As long as some third party - whether 
it be a state, a bank or a social media site - is the source of an individ- 
ual's identity credentials, that individual's freedom and control over 
their identity and personal data are limited. If anything should be 
inalienable, it should be one's identity - the right to assert and control 
who you are. Relinquish, delegate or appropriate that control, and 
what is left but servile dependency. 

Yet the big question remains. Can one be self-sovereign? That 
sounds like a contradiction. How can one have an identity credential 
issued that is authoritative, independent, incorruptible, and univer- 
sally accepted by others? 

It is vital that no single entity, public or private, shoiald have the 
power to issue a global identity credential. But who then should 
vouch for a person's identity if not the state or some "international 
agency"? That question has been answered convincingly by the uni- 
versal success of the open source software movement. By combining 
the norms of autonomy, security and innovation of the open source 
movement with the transformative powers of ODESS protocols and 
services, a genuinely new environment for institutional and gover- 
nance innovation is possible. 

The Bitcoin and Ripple algorithms are both open and not owned 
by anyone, and yet there are also shared protocols that serve as a type 
of social contract among participants in the system. So it shall be 
with ODESS platforms and services: algorithms for computing global 
identities will be open to review and not owned by any party, and self- 
organized communities will be capable of issuing and enforcing their 

Clippinger \ Why Self Sovereignty Matters 


own identity credentials, independent of states, banks, and other au- 
thority institutions. This will enable a whole new class of institutions 
to self-organize and develop organizational capacities and protections 
for solutions to fundamental issues of human rights and dignity that 
previously were simply not conceivable. 

Here is how self-sovereign authentication can work: An algorithm 
would have to compute a unique credential for everyone on the plan- 
et based upon something that is uniquely identifying to them. Fortu- 
nately, people have many biological and behavioral markers that are 
unique to them, ranging from how they move or shake a phone, to 
their daily movements and interactions, to the rhythm and pace of 
their typing and speaking. All of these markers can be digitally cap- 
tured. Indeed, with recent advances in genomics, the genome itself 
is one such "unique identifier" which is digitally captured by default. 

While in some cases, a single biological or behavioral marker 
may not be uniquely identifying, a combination of such markers can 
produce a unique and distinctive marker. Unlike a fingerprint, reti- 
na scan or similar "one time" biological markers that are fixed and 
therefore potentially appropriated by third parties, these new mark- 
ers change dynamically over time as the behavior and the biology 
of the individual changes over time - and they can correspondingly 
be verified in real time. By having a dynamic and evolving credential 
that changes with the individual, the resulting credential is not only 
more credible and perishable, it also makes the individual the living 
custodian of the credential. As a living credential, it cannot be easily 
appropriated by someone else and it ceases to be valid when the indi- 
vidual is no longer living. In this sense, it is truly inalienable and is a 
living digital representation of an individual. 

The approach taken here is a variant of forms of security and 
privacy analyses called L-Diversity k- Anonymity, [2] Trace analysis[3] 
and Differential Privacy[4]. In the simplest of terms, the challenge of 
creating a unique identifier for a person is the inverse of re -identifica- 
tion (determining a person's identity from anonymous data). In the 
case of geolocation data gleaned from mobile devices, for instance, 
de Montjoye et al. have found that it takes only four unique coor- 



dinates from cellular phone data to identify a person with 95% ac- 
curacy.[5] The power of this technique, however, depends upon the 
density of the populations and groups being analyzed. For instance, 
if there were few people in sparse locations with few roads, then the 
opportunity for variability-uniqueness would be more limited, and 
hence, the "identity distance" between individuals more limited. If 
on the other hand, it were a highly dense and diverse population with 
multiple local, regional, national and even international routes, then 
the opportunity for identity diversity would be significantly greater. 

All this suggests that any algorithm based upon movement and 
interactions would also have to consider not just the size and entropy 
of the population in which the individual resides or works, but the 
richness and diversity (entropy) of roads and modes of interaction. 
This measure could be augmented by adding more signature dimen- 
sions in the form of orthogonal behavioral and biological markers 
- such as, cardiac, gesture, typing, and voice signatures. It is also pos- 
sible to have a "sliding scale" of credential reliability tied to the level 
of risk or value in a given transaction. In emerging mobile markets 
where transaction volumes and amounts are infrequent and under 
$25 in value, the KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money 
Laundering) authentication algorithm could be lighter, but as the vol- 
ume and amounts of transactions increase, more rigorous credentials 
and real-time authentication methods could be used. 

In the near future it is very likely that many people will have their 
own sensor platform "bracelets" like the Nike FuelBand, a univer- 
sal tool for measuring all sorts of a person's activities. These sensor 
platforms can provide more accurate and unique location, movement 
and biometric data than phones alone and could be used for more 
secure forms of authentication and sharing in the near future. 

Under any circumstances, an individual's identity signature 
would be stored in an encrypted personal cloud that could only be 
accessed through a secure API to upgrade the signature and to allow 
third-party verification. Moreover, such a root signature could use ho- 
mographic encryption so that it could be queried without having to 
be decrypted. It would be from this root signature that a "root" pass- 

Clippinger \ Why Self Sovereignty Matters 


word would be generated by another Open Algorithm, which in turn 
would generate an OpenID OAuth 2.0 token to create a secure uni- 
versal password. Should an individual lose or change the password, 
another could be generated. Since it is generated oflF the same root 
identity signature, it could not be "spoofed" because it would be de- 
rived irom the encrypted root credential that only the individual has 
access to. This would obviate the problem of individuals forgetting 
or losing their password and not being able to recover or use their 
data or a service, because they could easily recover and regenerate 
a credential based upon their own actions. It may take time for fuU 
authentication to take place so there could be a "watch period" until 
the fuU richness of the credential is (re)created and verified. 

Personas and Contextual Identities 

In practice, humans have multiple identities; we are many people 
to different people; we are parents, spouses, workers, citizens, friends, 
patients, learners, buyers, makers, etc. Some of these different worlds 
overlap, but in many cases they do not, and in some cases, it is impor- 
tant that each context not be aware of the other or knows everything 
about the other. This compartmentalization of lives and information 
is a core component of privacy and essential for both personal and 
social freedoms. 

Such contextual identities we call personas. They are derived 
from one's root identity but are defined by specific attributes and cre- 
dentials that are needed to function in those contexts. For example, 
in a family context, the key attribute is relatedness - parent, child, 
husband, wife or spouse. These can be biological and socially asserted 
roles dependent upon specific social conventions and customs. In ei- 
ther case, they cannot be asserted by the individual but need to be 
asserted and verified by the group defining the context. One person 
can have many personas, each contextually defined and each whoUy 
independent of the other to the outside world. In some cases, a per- 
sona my be legally prescribed by a nation state, such as citizenship 
and a passport with required picture, certified birth certificate, and 
residency. In other cases, the persona may be based upon some at- 
tributes of mutual interest to everyone in a group or community - 



such as age, residency, income, education. Whereas there are many 
organizations such as banks, credit bureaus, government agencies, 
schools, health care organizations and the like which claim to be au- 
thorities for the verification of certain attributes, such as FICO scores 
for creditworthiness, many of these services themselves are subject 
to manipulation. 

Open Algorithms for Personas 

Again, there is a significant opportunity to have independent 
and open algorithms to calculate persona proxy attributes that can be 
derived from behavioral and biometric data to verify certain claims 
about people - such as their residence, employment, creditworthi- 
ness, sociality, health, affinities, activities and interest. Such data 
would be solely under the control of the individual and be shared 
in their personal cloud or Trusted Compute Cell (TCC). Using the 
Open Mustard Seed platform (OMS) these personal data could be 
shared at the discretion of the individual through their own open 
source Trusted Application Bundles. 

Personal Data Assets and Exchanges 

If individuals were able to collect and verify their own personal 
data in their own personal cloud or TCC, then they would have the 
opportunity to create asset value out of their own personal data. This 
is a new kind of asset class[6] that has been priced and valued in stan- 
dard markets such as those formed by data brokers and ad networks. 
For example, Acxiom, Experian, and Equifax make biUion dollar 
markets in relatively low quality and incomplete data and individuals 
themselves do not realize value from their own data. Imagine how 
valuable fully complete, accurate, timely and consensual personal 
data would be. For the less advantaged individuals, it would be a way 
of creating social capital and real financial equity for both their data 
and their actions, and therefore, would be a powerful means for the 
"unbanked" to bootstrap themselves into a global digital economy. 

Through the use of data asset exchanges where individuals and 
groups could make markets using their data assets, a new business 
model for web content and services would be possible. Such a busi- 

Clippinger \ Why Self Sovereignty Matters 


ness model might well displace the current advertising model where 
the financial incentives are to trick people out of their data and to 
push inappropriate offers at people. Imagine a world where people 
got fair value for their data and would be in charge of how they would 
be approached by vendors and third parties. That would not only 
change the "balance of power" between individuals corporations and 
governments, it would unlock new sources of innovation and greater 
service efficiencies by making the management of market and secu- 
rity risk based upon more accurate and complete data analytics. 

None of this would be possible, however, if individuals were not 
self-sovereign and in charge of their own identities and personal data. 
If other parties, governments or corporations, are in charge of the 
enrollment process, then the old dictum of Quis custodiet ipsos custo- 
dies would assert itself once again and undermine the very trust and 
transparency needed to have a free and open digital ecology. 

John H. Clippinger is co-founder and Executive Director of ID3 (Institute for Inno- 
vation ir Data Driven Design), a nonprofit organization formed to develop and field 
test legal and software trust frameworks for data-driven services, infrastructures and 
enterprises. He is also Research Scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab's Human Dynamics 
Group. Previously, Dr. Clippinger was founder and Co-Director of The Law Lah at the 
Berkman Center for Internet ir Society at Harvard University. He is the author of A 
Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity (2007) and The Biology of 
Business (1998). 


[1] Bollier, David and John H. Clippinger, "The Next Creat Internet Disruption: Au- 
thority and Governance," available at http:/ / 
page_feature&p=631. See also Clippinger, John H., A Crowd of One, The Future 
of Individual Identity (Public Affairs, 2007). 

[2] Machanavajjhala, A., Kifer, D., Gehrke, J., and Venkitasubramaniam, M., "Diver- 
sity: Privacy Beyond k- Anonymity," ACM Trans. Knowl. Discov. Data 1,1, Article 
3 (March 2007) [DOI=10.1145/ 1217299.1217302], available at http://doi.acm. 
org/10.1145/1217299.1217302; see also Lantanya Sweeney, "k-Anonymity: A 
Model for Protecting Privacy," International Journal on Uncertainty, Fuzziness and 
Knowledge-based Systems, 10 (5) (2002), pp. 557-570, available at http: / /datapriva- 
cylab . org / dataprivacy / projects / kanony mity / kanonymity. pdf . 

[3] Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, Cesar A. Hidalgo, Michel Verleysen and Vincent D. 
Blondel, "Unique in the Crowd: The Privacy Bounds of Human Mobility," Na- 
ture (March 2013); and Lantanya Sweeney, "Uniqueness of Simple Demograph- 



ics in the U.S. Population," Technical Report LIDAP-WP4 (Pittsburgh, Pa.: Carn- 
egie Mellon University, 2000), available at http;/ / 
identifiability / index.html. 

[4] Ninghui Li, Wahbeh Qardaji, Dong Su, "Provably Private Data Anonymization: 
Or, K-Anonymity Meets Differential Privacy" CERIAS Tech Report 2010-27, Cen- 
ter for Education and Research, Information Assurance and Security (West La- 
fayette, Indiana: Purdue University, 2010). 

[5] Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, Cesar A. Hidalgo, Michel Verleysen & Vincent D. 
Blondel, "Unique in the Crowd: The Privacy Bounds of Human Mobility." Na- 
ture, (March 2013). 

[6] World Economic Forum, Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class (2011). 

Chapter 3 

The Next Great Internet Disruption: 
Authority and Governance 

By David Bollier and ]ohn H. Clippinger 

As THE Internet and digital technologies have proliferated over the 
past twenty years, incumbent enterprises nearly always resist open 
network dynamics with fierce determination, a narrow ingenuity and 
resistance. It arguably started with AOL (vs. the Web and browsers), 
Lotus Notes (vs. the Web and browsers) and Microsoft MSN (vs. the 
Web and browsers, Amazon in books and eventually everything) be- 
fore moving on to the newspaper industry (Craigslist, blogs, news 
aggregators, podcasts), the music industry (MP3s, streaming, digital 
sales, video through streaming and YouTube), and telecommunica- 
tions (VoIP, WiFi). But the inevitable rearguard actions to defend old 
forms are invariably overwhelmed by the new, network-based ones. 
The old business models, organizational structures, professional sine- 
cures, cioltural norms, etc., ultimately yield to open platforms. 

When we look back on the past twenty years of Internet history, 
we can more fully appreciate the prescience of David P. Reed's semi- 
nal 1999 paper on "Group Forming Networks" (GFNs).[l] "Reed's 
Law" posits that value in networks increases exponentially as interac- 
tions move from a broadcasting model that offers "best content" (in 
which value is described by n, the number of consumers) to a net- 
work of peer-to-peer transactions (where the network's value is based 
on "most members" and mathematically described by n^). But by far 
the most valuable networks are based on those that facilitate group 
affiliations. Reed concluded. When users have tools for "free and re- 
sponsible association for common purposes," he found, the value of 
the network soars exponentially to 2" - a fantastically large number. 



This is the Group Forming Network. Reed predicted that "the dominant 
value in a typical network tends to shift fi-om one category to another 
as the scale of the network increases. ..." 

What is really interesting about Reed's analysis is that today's 
world of GFNs, as embodied by Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and 
other Web 2.0 technologies, remains highly rudimentary. It is based 
on proprietary platforms (as opposed to open source, user-controlled 
platforms), and therefore provides only limited tools for members of 
groups to develop trust and confidence in each other. This suggests 
a huge, unmet opportunity to actualize greater value from open net- 
works. Citing Francis Fukuyama's book Trust, Reed points out that 
"there is a strong correlation between the prosperity of national 
economies and social capital, which [Fukuyama] defines culturally as 
the ease with which people in a particular culture can form new as- 

A Network Architecture for Group Forming Networks 

If we take Reed's analysis of network dynamics seriously, and ap- 
ply his logic to the contemporary scene, it becomes clear that the best 
way to unlock enormous stores of value on networks is to develop 
tools that can facilitate GFNs. This will be the next great Internet dis- 
ruption. But to achieve this, we must develop a network architecture 
and software systems that can enable people to build trust and social 
capital in user-centric, scalable ways. 

Necessarily, this means that we must begin to re -imagine the very 
nature of authority and governance. We must invent new types of 
digital institutions that are capable of administering authority rec- 
ognized as authentic and use algorithmic tools to craft and enforce 

The idea that conventional institutions of governance (and gov- 
ernment) may have to change may seem like a far-fetched idea. Who 
dares to question the venerable system of American government? Tra- 
ditions are deeply rooted and seemingly rock-soUd. But why should 
government be somehow immune from the same forces that have 
disrupted Encyclopedia Britannica, retailing in all sectors, the music 
industry, metropolitan daily newspapers and book publishing? Based 

BoUier ir Clippinger \ Authority & Governance 


on existing trends, we believe the next wave of Internet disruptions is 
going to redefine the nature of authority and governance. It is going 
to transform existing institutions of law and create new types of legal 
institutions - "code as law," as Lawrence Lessig famously put it. 

Governance is about legitimate authority making decisions that 
are respected by members of a given community. These decisions 
generally allocate rights of access and usage of resources, among oth- 
er rights and privileges. Such governance generally requires a capac- 
ity to assert and validate who we are - to determine our identity in 
one aspect or another. That's what is happening when the state issues 
us birth certificates, passports. Social Security numbers and drivers' 
licenses. It is assigning us identities that come with certain privileges, 
duties and sanctions. This is the prerogative of institutions of gov- 
ernance - the ability to do things to you and for you. Institutions set 
criteria for our entitlements to certain civic, political, economic and 
cultural benefits. In the case of religious institutions, such authority 
even extends to the afiierlife! 

The power to govern is ofi;en asserted, but it may or may not be 
based on authentic social consent. This is an important issue because 
open networks are changing the nature of legitimate authority and 
the consent of the governed. User communities are increasingly as- 
serting their own authority, assigning identities to people, and allocat- 
ing rights and privileges in the manner of any conventional institu- 
tion. Anonymous, Five Star Movement, the Pirate Party, Arab Spring, 
Lulzsec and Occupy are notable examples of such grassroots, net- 
work-enabled movements - and there are plenty of other instances 
in which distributed networks of users work together toward shared 
goals in loosely coordinated, bottom-up ways. Such "smart mobs" 
- elementary forms of GFNs - are showing that they have the legiti- 
macy and legal authority and the economic and cultural power to act 
as "institutions" with a modicum of governance power. 

This is where Reed's Law and the proliferation of open networks, 
amplified by the ubiquity of mobile devices, is starting to make things 
very interesting. If the means to facilitate GFNs can be taken to more 
secure and trusted levels, empowering cooperative action on larger 



scales, it opens up a vast new realm of opportunity for value-creation 
above and beyond Web 2.0 platforms. 

This vision is especially attractive in light of the structural limita- 
tions of large, centralized institutions of government and commerce. 
By virtue of their (antiquated) design, they simply are not capable 
of solving the challenges we are demanding of them. Conventional 
legislation, regulations and litigation are simply too crude and un- 
responsive to provide governance that is seen as legitimate and re- 
sponsive. As for social networking platforms, they typically rely upon 
proprietary business models that coUect and sell personal informa- 
tion about users, which is exposing another sort of structural barrier: 
social distrust. Businesses based on such revenue-models cannot help 
but stifle the GFN potential described by Reed's Law. 

Group Forming Networks and Big Data 

The promise of self-organized network governance - a new type 
of Group Forming Network - holds a great deal of appeal when it 
comes to Big Data. We now live in a world of ubiquitous digital net- 
works and databases that contain vast amounts of personal informa- 
tion about individuals. GFNs could help us overcome the legal and 
regulatory impasse that we now face with respect to the manage- 
ment of such personal data. Neither Congress, executive agencies 
nor the courts are likely to come up with a set of responsive policies 
that can keep pace with technological innovation and thwart players 
of Hi-intent. 

Ever since Hobbes proposed the State as the only viable alterna- 
tive to the dread state of nature, citizens have entered into a notional 
"social contract" with "the Leviathan" to protect their safety and ba- 
sic rights. But if networked technologies could enable individuals to 
negotiate their own social contract(s) and meet their needs more di- 
rectly and responsively it would enable the emergence of new sorts 
of effective, quasi-autonomous governance and self-provisioning. 
And it could achieve these goals without necessarily or directly re- 
quiring government. Online communities working in well-designed 
software environments could act more rapidly, with highly specific 
knowledge and with greater social legitimacy than conventional gov- 

BoUier ir Clippinger \ Authority & Governance 


ernment institutions. Users, acting individually and in groups, could 
use their own secure digital identities to manage their own personal 

This scenario is inspired not just by David Reed's analysis of how 
to reap value from networks, but by the extensive scholarship of 
Professor Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Laureate in economics in 2009. 
Ostrom identified key principles by which self-organized groups can 
manage common-pool resources in fair, sustainable ways. If data 
were to be regarded as a common-pool resource, Ostrom's research 
shows how it would be possible for online groups to devise their own 
data commons to manage their personal data in their own interests. 
(For more, see Chapter 12, "The Algorithmic Governance of Com- 
mon-Pool Resources," by Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu.) 

Of course, "law" emerging from self-organized digital institu- 
tions would have a very different character than the kinds of law 
emanating from Congress and the Supreme Court (just as blogging 
is a different from journalism and Wikipedia is different from Ency- 
clopedia Britannica). "Digital law" would be algorithmic in the sense 
that machine-learning would help formulate and administer the law 
and enforce compliance. It would enable users to devise new types of 
legal contracts that are computationally expressible and executable, 
as well as evolvable and auditable. Such an innovation would make 
institutional corruption and insider collusion far easier to detect and 
eliminate. Arcane systems of law - once based on oral traditions and 
printed texts - could make the great leap to computable code, pro- 
viding powerful new platforms for governance. Law that is dynamic, 
evolvable and outcome-oriented would make the art of governance 
subject to the iterative innovations of Moore's Law. Designs could be 
experimentally tested, evaluated by actual outcomes, and made into 
better iterations. 

Open Mustard Seed 

Mindful of the functional limits of conventional government and 
policymaking - and of the unmet promise of Reed's Law despite the 
ubiquity of the Internet - it is time to take fuller advantage of the 
versatile value-generating capacities of open network platforms. It 



is time to develop new sorts of network-native institutions of law 
and governance. That is the frank ambition of the new software plat- 
form Open Mustard Seed (OMS), which seeks to enable users to build 
new sorts of decentralized, dynamically responsive and transparent 
digital institutions. By enabling people to build trust and cooperation 
among each other, Open Mustard Seed seeks to fulfill the promise 
of Reed's Law. (For more on OMS, see Chapter 13, "The IDS Open 
Mustard Seed Platform," by Thomas Hardjono, Patrick Deegan and 
John H. Clippinger, and Chapter 14, "The Relational Matrix," by Pat- 
rick Deegan.) 

OMS provides a new infrastructure to let people build their own 
highly distributed social ecosystems for reliably governing all sorts of 
shared resources, including their personal data. The software is a syn- 
thesis of a variety of existing software systems - for digital identity, 
security, computable legal contracts and data-management - designed 
to serve as a new platform for social exchange and online governance. 
Just as the original html code gave rise to the World Wide Web and 
new types of bottom-up social communication and collaboration, 
OMS can be conceived as a new "social stack" of protocols and soft- 
ware for self-organized governance. Instead of looking to (unreliable, 
unwieldy) external institutions of law and policy, OMS uses software 
code to internalize governance to individuals and online communities. 

OMS solves a number of interrelated problems about Big Data. 
Users have not had an easy or reliable means to express their pref- 
erences for how their personal data may be accessed and used, es- 
pecially when one context (a bank) differs so much from another (a 
healthcare provider) and still others (family and friends). A user may 
not know with whom they are really transacting, nor can they read- 
ily verify that their privacy preferences are actually respected and en- 
forced. Users are often wary of exposing or sharing their data with 
third parties whose trustworthiness is not known. In this context, it 
is not surprising that protecting one's personal information is seen as 
antithetical to commercial and governmental uses of it. 

The Open Mustard Seed project seeks to overcome these prob- 
lems through a technical architecture called the "Trusted Compute 

BoUier ir Clippinger \ Authority & Governance 


Framework" (TCP). The TCP extends the core functionality of "Per- 
sonal Data Stores" (PDS) - digital repositories in the cloud that let us- 
ers strictly control their personal information - by enabling online us- 
ers to interact flexibly with third parties in secure, trustworthy ways. 

In such a network environment, one can imagine an ecosystem 
of "branded portals" emerging as central repositories for people's 
personal data. One can also imagine companies arising to serve as 
"trust providers" of social, secure, cloud-based applications. Users 
could begin to enjoy many benefits that stem from sharing their data 
(avoidance of advertising, group discounts, trusted interactions with 
affinity groups and strangers, etc.) Businesses that engage with this 
architecture (app developers, service providers, retailers) could gain 
trusted access to large, highly refined pools of personal data that 
can be monetized directly or indirectly, using new business models. 
Government institutions, similarly, could gain access to large pools 
of personal data without violating people's privacy or the Fourth 
Amendment, and craft more reliable, effective and demographicaUy 
refined policies and programs. As a completely decentralized and 
open source platform, OMS cannot be "captured" by any single play- 
er or group. It aims to be always capable of the kinds of open-ended 
innovation that we have seen in open source sofl;ware, the Web and 
other open platforms. 

The Future of Governance 

The OMS platform has sweeping implications for political gov- 
ernance in both theoretical and practical terms. It could transform 
the role of the State by empowering citizens to devise new forms 
of self-actualized institutions. These institutions would likely provide 
greater social legitimacy, efficacy and adaptability than conventional 
government. Instead of regarding political authority as something in- 
herent in government and law, OMS seeks to ratify a deeper social 
reality - that authority is a collective social process that arises through 
the autonomous expressions of a group's needs, values and commit- 
ments. Legitimate authority is ultimately vested in a community's 
ongoing, evolving social life, and not in ritualistic forms of citizen- 
ship. Any new GFN software will clearly need to undergo refinement 



and evolution in the coming years. Yet Reed's Law suggests that this is 
the inevitable trajectory of the Internet and the economic and social 
changes that it is driving. We should embrace this future because it 
offers us a compelling pathway for moving beyond the many deep 
structural impasses in our troubled system of government, politics, 
economy and culture. 

David Bollier is Editor at IDS and an author, blogger and independent scholar/ activist 
who is the author of twelve books, most recently Think Like a Commoner and Green 
Governance. He cofounded the Commons Strategies Group in 2010 and the Washing- 
ton, D.C., policy advocacy group Public Knowledge in 2002. 

John H. Clippinger is cofounder and Executive Director of IDS (Institute for Institu- 
tional Innovation by Data-Driven Design), a nonprofit organization formed to develop 
and field test legal and software trust frameworks for data-driven services, infrastruc- 
tures, and enterprises. He is also Research Scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab's Human 
Dynamics Group. Previously, Dr. Clippinger was founder and Co-Director of The Law 
Lab at the Berkman Center for Internet ir Society at Harvard University. He is the 
author of A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity (2007) and The 
Biology of Business (1998). 


[1] David P. Reed, "The Sneaky Exponential - Beyond Metcalfe's Law to the Power 
of Community Building," at 

Chapter 4 

The New Mestieri Culture of Artisans 

By Maurizio Rossi 

If there is one key lesson to be learned from the Internet, it is that we 
are moving from an "Industrial Age" to an "Entrepreneurial Age," a 
paradigm shift in how we design, produce, manufacture and market 
products. Historically, human beings have adapted to new technol- 
ogies; increasingly, however, we are moving to a world where new 
technologies wiU adapt to individual human needs and behaviors. 

In the new environment of open networks and fluid knowledge- 
sharing, the most competitive companies wiU not survive as closed, 
proprietary systems working in vertical value-chains. They will con- 
stantly need to leverage people's creativity, spontaneity, serendipity, 
knowledge and passion. This type of engagement will extend not just 
to a company's staff and suppliers, but to customers and the general 

These organizational shifts are necessary because technologies 
are empowering collaboration on a much larger scale, making it a 
routine fact of Hfe. This is fostering a new emphasis on relational pat- 
terns in business instead of simply transactional ones. Each individual 
is becoming a peer in a larger community - a personal producer and 
entrepreneur who uses a variety of platforms to carry on a variety 
of relationships - not just among humans, but with machines. This 
environment of hyper-connectivity and relationships is empowering 
people to produce, design or service almost anything. 

In my country, Italy, many industries are rooted in old artisan cul- 
tures called "Mestieri." Some of them have grown and adapted to 
the industrial age, earning a solid reputation for their craftsmanship. 
Their commitment to artisanship and high quality work remains a 
deep part of their organizational culture even as industrial produc- 



tion has become the norm. Mass-market production simply cannot 
match the quaHty of such artisanal enterprises. 

But the pervasive role of the Internet and other digital technolo- 
gies in mainstream commerce is changing this equation. I believe that 
we are at the beginning of the "New Artisan" generation, in which 
skilled workers - often, young people - will be able to combine deep 
knowledge and experience in a given field of artisanship with new 
technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence and 
"smart materials." We are seeing the digital mindset blend with ar- 
tisanal culture, and we are seeing the rise of new business models 
that make artisanal quality products widely accessible, profitable and 

This wiU change the commercial landscape significantly, and it 
will open up a completely new spectrum of challenges. When the 
boundaries between a company and its partners, suppliers, custom- 
ers and future staff become blurry and porous, a company needs to 
re-think how it will manage those relationships over the long term. I 
believe that competitive companies will need to develop entirely new 
"relational structures" - for educating and recruiting new talent, for 
securing the attention and loyalty of customers, and for managing 
production in an always-changing "value network" (rather than stat- 
ic, linear "value chains"). 

We can already see hints of this future in the advertising industry 
with Web-based innovators like Zooppa. Zooppa has attracted more 
than 243,000 creatives to come up with crowd-created and -critiqued 
advertising campaigns. The giant, traditional advertising firms regard 
Zooppa as a novelty and perhaps as a niche competitor. They do not 
understand that it represents a transformative model for advertising 
that is likely to expand in coming years - a model based on radically 
dynamic social interaction. Advertising as a social conversation. 

Incumbent industry leaders always seem to have this problem: 
they see upstart innovators through the lens of existing markets. 
Hence Zooppa is seen as "just another advertising firm." In truth, 
Zooppa is a new socially based, rapid-response platform for building 

Rossi [ The New Mestieri Culture of Artisans 


trust and credibility in a brand. It is about redefining the very mean- 
ing of "branding" and the social fi"amework for marketing. 

Camera makers had a similar blind spot when smartphones start- 
ed to include simple cameras. The photography world was conde- 
scending to this innovation and did not see it as a serious threat. But 
over time the quality of smartphone cameras got a lot better, and 
soon smartphones began siphoning away business from traditional 

We can see a similar response to Nest, the innovative "smart 
thermostat" that incumbent manufacturers failed to see as a seri- 
ous competitor. Nest was seen as a niche novelty - a Wi-Fi-enabled, 
auto-scheduling thermostat that can be remotely controlled from a 
smartphone or laptop. Now that Nest has been acquired by Google, 
it is more evident that thermostats are not just themostats any more. 
They should be seen as a powerful point of access to a wider universe 
of digital devices and cloud services. 

It is noteworthy that the innovators mentioned here emerged 
fi-om the periphery of established markets. Historically, the domi- 
nant businesses in an industry could safely ignore the edge because - 
even though great ideas sometime arose there - they could not easily 
scale. Artisanal culture was permanently consigned to the fringe. The 
quality and customization that were born in small shops and local 
industries could not reach global markets nor maintain their quality 
standards if they tried. 

But that is changing today. Artisanal production and culture can 
increasingly reach consumers and scale rapidly. We see this every day 
among Internet startups, which grow from a few programmers to 
very large enterprises in only a few years. 

Now imagine this dynamic playing out in markets based on phys- 
ical production, such as the design, manufacturing and retailing of 
countless everyday products. Large, brand-name manufacturers and 
retail chains are going to face increasingly fierce pressures from small, 
artisan-based companies. Why? Because those companies will be able 
to deliver stylish, customized products at any location, on demand. 
They will go beyond the impersonal, one-size-fits- all feel of mass-pro- 



duced products, and instead conform to the social attitudes, needs 
and practices of small and localized niches of consumers. 

Mass-market manufacturers wiU also need to rethink their pro- 
duction processes. 

For decades, large companies have sought out low- wage countries 
to produce their products, which are then shipped halfway across the 
world to reach customers at a retail outlet. As Apple advertises, "De- 
signed in California" - while its products are quietly, without fanfare, 
produced in China. 

This design and production model will face new pressures as the 
artisanal business culture develops the capacity to out-compete the 
historic model. Experienced craftspeople in one location - say, Ita- 
ly - will increasingly be able to sell products that are manufactured 
on-demand at thousands of retail locations around the world. The 
special design and production knowledge that a local community of 
artisans have cultivated, will be able to be transmitted to 3D printers 
in thousands of retail stores, for example. A Long Tail of distinctive, 
high-quality eyewear will be available on a mass-market basis. One 
company that I know envisions producing ten new models every day. 

The artisan-driven model will become supremely efificient, not to 
mention customer-friendly because its design, production and retail- 
ing will take advantage of the modularity made possible by open net- 
works. This is how the Web functions, and why all sorts of startups 
have been able to disintermediate large, well-established industries. 
In the near future, large companies with static, vertical supply chains 
wiU find themselves at a disadvantage in competing against artisanal 
suppliers who have greater speed, flexibility, social connections to 
customers and creativity. 

We are going to see new ways of conceiving, designing, market- 
ing and retailing products. Production and manufacturing of prod- 
ucts wiU be diffused rather than concentrated, as in the industrial 
model. Groups of artisans will participate in larger manufacturing 
networks that are able to participate on shared platforms, much as 
APIs provide a point of access to shared technology platforms for 
Apple and Amazon. 

Rossi [ The New Mestieri Culture of Artisans 


Branding itself will undergo a transformation. Instead of closed, 
proprietary brands that peddle an unattainable dream, image or life- 
style, brands wiU become "open." That is, many artisans and com- 
panies will contribute to the brand identity and image. The brand 
wiU not be a proprietary, top-down creation "owned" by a single 
company; it will be a bottom-up social enactment that 'Tjelongs" to 
the collaborative community of artisans, companies, suppliers and 
customers, all of whom participate in the shared ecosystem. Open 
brands will have a social authenticity - a credibility and depth - that is 
rarely associated with branded products today. 

The closest version of open branding today would be the social 
ecosystems that revolve around software platforms such as Linux and 
Apache, and around the open hardware world known as Arduino. 
Participation in a branded ecosystem is available to anyone, but par- 
ticipation is predicated on accepting certain principles, protocols and 

While conventional companies would probably be threatened by 
the idea of other businesses "participating" in "their" brands, open 
branding simply reflects the new realities of ubiquitous open net- 
works - and then leverages it. After all, any company is embedded 
in a complex cluster of interdependencies. Why not make the most 
of that? Instead of trying to "go it alone" in the style of traditional, 
proprietary business models, open branding enlists all participants in 
a shared ecosystem to cooperate (in building the brand) while com- 
peting (on the basis of a distinctive value-added). 

This new understanding of brands is more realistic than industri- 
al-era branding because it recognizes that brands are not idealized, re- 
mote icons, but rather living, breathing social systems. Open brands 
provide a way for artisanal enterprises and their suppliers and cus- 
tomers to collectively express a shared commitment to certain stan- 
dards of quality, production ethics and community values. 

Mestieri-based branding wiU establish strong, credible linkages 
between artisan-producers and customers via API-based platforms 
for design, production and retail. Designers wiU be able to instill their 
authentic, distinctive craftsmanship into products, and highly distrib- 



uted local manufacturing oudets around the world will be able to de- 
liver higher quality products. Customers will enjoy the conveniences 
of vast choice, on-demand production, customized features and ex- 
press delivery - and companies will avoid the inefificiencies, limited 
choices and unsold inventories that plague conventional production. 

Of course, many questions remain unanswered. How shall the 
new generation of artisans learn and cultivate their skiUs? How can 
artisanal companies develop the brand relationships with customers 
and fend oflF takeovers by large companies that wish to stifle the com- 
petitive alternatives that they offer? 

To be sure, incumbent market players, especially large companies 
invested in old infrastructures and business models, will resist this 
new world. That is always the case when disruptive innovation arises. 
And startups will need to be savvy in maintaining their integrity of 
vision, especially since large companies will find it convenient to buy 
startups as a way to learn new tricks. 

But we have seen how each new generation of tech innovators 
always has some determined visionaries eager to break with the old 
ways and forge new paths that are both profitable and socially appeal- 
ing. These challenges will be made easier by the proliferation of "out 
of control" technologies that can work on open digital networks. 

Artisanal production will not supplant everything else. There will 
still be large manufacturing concerns based on economies of scale. 
But they will coexist with - and be challenged by - networks of small- 
er companies and solo businesses that can compete with greater agil- 
ity, speed and customization. 

The new production capabilities will post a clear challenge to tra- 
ditional consumer culture, however. For years, manufacturers have 
cultivated a strict dichotomy between low quality /low price and 
prestigious brands /high price (but not necessarily high quality /high 
price). The challenge going forward will be to validate the market 
position of higher quality /higher price products (but not luxury, not 
CucineUi's). This will not be a trivial challenge. 

The transition wiU also require visionary entrepreneurs who are 
willing to understand the new technologies and master the artisanal 

Rossi [ The New Mestieri Culture of Artisans 


skills to shape new commercial models. These leaders must have 
a commitment to quality and taste, and recognize that redefining 
mainstream consumer expectations wiU take time. Within their com- 
panies, too, they will need to develop new forms of apprenticeships 
and education to nourish artisanal cultures, especially as existing mas- 
ters of various crafts grow older. 

Finally, the rise of the Mestieri production culture will require 
appropriate frameworks of applications. Mainstream social networks 
today are still mostly used for entertainment. While there are a num- 
ber of game-changing platforms for crowdsourcing and crowdfund- 
ing, these applications will need to expand and become more versa- 
tile if they are to become engines for digital artisans. 

Many unresolved issues will need to be addressed, obviously, but 
it is clear that as the company of tomorrow moves to open platforms, 
traditional linear chains of production developed in the industrial era 
wiU give way to loose networks of designers, producers and custom- 
ers. And this will require that we understand production as far more 
than a transactional process, and more as a deeply relational one. 


Maurizio Rossi started his business career in sales and new market development for 
Rossimoda, a leading Italian luxury footwear company started hy his grandfather In 
the early 1990s, Rossi started a new sports apparel business division, Vista Point, whose 
brands he licensed and distributed globally for over ten years. Rossimoda was later ac- 
quired by the luxury giant LVMH. In 2005, Rossi cofounded H-FARM, a platform for 
incubating a new generation of Italian entrepreneurs. 

Chapter 5 

Burning Man: 
The Pop-Up City of Self-Governing Individualists 

By Peter Hirshherg 

When friends first started telling me about Burning Man in the 
1990s it made me nervous. This place in a harsh desert, where they 
wore strange clothes or perhaps none at all. Why? Whole swaths of 
my San Francisco community spent much of the year building mas- 
sive works of art or collaborating on elaborate camps where they had 
to provide for every necessity. They were going to a place with no wa- 
ter, no electricity, no shade and no shelter. And they were completely 
passionate about going to this place to create a city out of nothing. 
To create a world they imagined - out of nothing. A world with rules, 
mores, traditions and principles, which they more or less made up, 
and then lived. 

Twenty-eight years later Burning Man has emerged as a unique 
canvas on which to run city-scale experiments. It attracts some of the 
most creative and accomplished people on the planet. It's big. Sixty- 
eight thousand people attended in 2013. It inspires broad-based par- 
ticipation, imagination and play. It pushes our thinking about society: 
Can anyone reaUy imagine an economy based on gifts and generos- 
ity, not on monetary transactions? If only for a week. Burning Man 
is a place where art, performance and radical self-expression are the 
most valued activities of a society. It is a place apart, with the least 
government and the most freedom of any place I can think of on 
earth. Where thousands of people self-organize into theme camps, 
art projects, pulsing sound villages, fire-dancing troupes, groups of 
performers, a department of public works, rangers to patrol the site, 
and a temporary airport. 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


Because Burning Man is a phantasmagoria of possibility, a com- 
pletely dreamed-up city built from scratch each year, it's an oppor- 
tunity to relax the constraints of your world, your job and your 
imagined "role" in the world. As Burning Man founder Larry Harvey 
points out, "It's about personal agency. It's about being able to create 
the world you live in. We make the world real through actions that 
open the heart." 

At a time when people don't trust institutions as we once did, 
when what bubbles up is a lot more attractive than what trickles 
down. Burning Man is a fascinating place to observe the large-scale 
practice of self-organizing governance in action. Its quarter century 
history lets us look back and see what worked and what didn't. We 
can see which strains of political and organizational thought and city 
design have endured and which were cast aside. In Burning Man we 
can observe the constant tension between centralized organization 
and emergent activity on the edge. It is a lab for testing the balance of 
extreme liberty and community - or, to quote its self-described prin- 
ciples, between "radical self-expression" and "radical self-reliance" 
on the one hand, and "radical inclusion," "civic responsibility" and 
"communal effort" on the other. 

Burning Man is self-organized by thousands of people and camps 
from all over the world, but its core directions are set by a small team 
of founders who curate and exercise their judgment more as Plato's 
philosopher-king than as leaders of a democratic state. They set the 
size of Burning Man, negotiate with state and federal agencies for 
land access rights, design the contours of the city, sell tickets, pro- 
vide grants to select artists, and create a framework for education 
and communication for the global Burning Man community. The 
dialogue among participants and with the founders brings to mind 
Publius, author of the Federalist Papers, who argued with his peers 
about the proper governance principles for a new social order. The 
difference is that Burning Man is undertaking this inquiry as an ever- 
changing experiment in a swirl of costumes and music on a remote, 
antediluvian dried salt lakebed. 



Some basic facts: Burning Man is an annual week-long event held 
in Nevada's Black Rock desert. It is one of the most God-forsaken 
environments in North America - a vast semi-arid desert with lava 
beds and alkali flats. Amidst 380,000 acres of wilderness arises Black 
Rock City, the seven-square mile temporary city that is Burning Man. 
When it's over, everything is gone, without a trace. Burning Man's 
arrangement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, from which 
it leases the land, is that nothing be left behind — not a piece of paper, 
a shoe, a sequin.[l] 

That is part of Burning Man's philosophy of radical self -reliance. 
You build this city as a participant, and then pack everything out. (A 
subtle cue: Burning Man sets out no garbage cans in its city, a re- 
minder you'll have to handle that problem on your own.) There is no 
government to come clean up after you, and no one to provide light- 
ing or a power grid. You, your friends, your camp have to solve these 
problems yourselves. This forces you to think about systems, resource 
sharing, and new approaches to self-organizing. And while the event 
is temporary, the experience and its insights linger long afterwards, 
both because the Burner community (as they call themselves) is often 
engaged in planning aU year long, and because this freed-up way of 
thinking has a way of influencing peoples lives, careers, projects and 
civic engagement long after everyone packs up and leaves the desert. 

It is said of Burning Man that people come for the art and stay for 
the community. In my own case, the overwhelming impression when 
I first arrived in 2005 was of miles and miles of fantastic vehicles and 
structures ringing the central core of Burning Man and extending 
deep into the playa - "beach" in Spanish. People spend countless 
hours creating strange vehicles and "buildings": a vehicle resembling 
a giant octopus with fire-spouting tentacles. . ..a half-sunk pirate ship 
rising out of the desert with its sixty -foot mast. . . .a small-town church 
leaping at an angle from the ground, organ blasting. 

At the center of it all is The Man - a nearly hundred-foot-tall 
sculpture that serves as an anchor point for the city until it is burned 
on the penultimate night of the event. Just as the World Trade Center 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


towers once helped New Yorkers locate themselves in Manhattan, the 
Man provides an orientation point in the desert. 

Burning Man has the scale and spectacle of a World's Fair, except 
that it's not built by companies and countries. It's built by everybody. 
Participation is one of the core principles of Burning Man, a belief 
that transformative change occurs through deeply personal involve- 
ment. This barkens back to the American tradition of barn-raising 
where everyone pitches in to help a farmer build his necessary struc- 
tures; or to Habitat for Humanity, where the entire community is 
involved in building homes for those who need them. 

Urbanist Jane Jacobs, in her classic book The Death and Life of 
Great American Cities, understood the importance of this idea when 
she wrote, "Cities have the capability of providing something for 
everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by every- 
body." She was speaking in the context of 1960s urban renewal where 
city governments tried to build neighborhoods to serve residents, but 
without engaging them. At Burning Man, the obverse principle is 
honored: when you participate in building your world you are more 
engaged and have a sense of agency you'd never have otherwise. Ja- 
cobs would also have understood Burning Man's wonderful weird- 
ness. In 1961 she also wrote, " By its nature, the metropolis provides 
what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange." 

While Burning Man is fantastic, it embodies many deeply rooted 
American values. It is TocqueviUian at its core - a great coming to- 
gether of the most heterodox assemblage of voluntary associations, 
working in various groups, yet building a network of social trust in a 
shared city. 'Association is the mother of science," said TocqueviUe. 
"The progress of all the rest depends upon the progress it has made." 
At a time when Americans are accused of spending less time on genu- 
ine communities. Burning Man is an intensely purposeful commu- 
nity, a dazzling display of social capital. 

From afar it may seem as if Burning Man is a magical, spontane- 
ous creation. In fact. Burning Man works only because there is a core 
set of shared principles that are almost universally agreed to and self- 
enforced by the community. Which in turn yields the least amount 



of government and the most amount of freedom. The dynamics of 
self-organized governance are remarkably similar to those identified 
by the late Elinor Ostrom - the Nobel Prize Laureate in economics 
in 2009 - who spent decades studying the design principles of suc- 
cessful commons. To manage a "common-pool resource" such as a 
seven-square mile piece of desert with 68,000 inhabitants in 2013, the 
Burners realize that they are part of a conscious community. Every- 
one therefore shares responsibility for monitoring each other and en- 
forcing the rules. 

In 2004 Larry Harvey published the "Ten Principles of Burning 
Man" to serve as guidelines for the community. As I work with cit- 
ies around the world on innovation and fostering creative and maker 
economies, I find these are broadly applicable guidelines for con- 
ceptualizing a more sustainable, more conscious and less materialist 
world. They make you more self-aware of the personal commitments 
needed to make a great city work well. 

Four of the principles are concerned with how the individual can 
live a more present, conscious and engaged life: Radical-Self Expres- 
sion, Radical Self-Reliance, Immediacy, and Participation. Four focus 
on the community: Communal effort. Civic engagement. Radical In- 
clusion and Leave No Trace. And the final two are perhaps the most 
remarkable of all: Gifting and Decommodification. Burning Man's 
gift economy celebrates the unrequited joy of giving. It's not bar- 
ter because nothing is expected in return. To keep Burning Man a 
celebration of the efforts of its participants, there are no brands, no 
sponsors, no advertising. These are the conditions for a very different, 
more creative world, yet reminiscent of Aristotle's vision that a good 
society is built on the transcendental values of truth, goodness and 
beauty - the core of its culture. 

The Ten Principles of Burning Man 

Radical Inclusion. Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We 
welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for 
participation in our community. 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


Gifting. Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value 
of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a re- 
turn or an exchange for something of equal value. 

Decommodification. In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our 
community seeks to create social environments that are unme- 
diated by commercial sponsorships, transactions or advertising. 
We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. 
We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory ex- 

Radical Self-reliance. Burning Man encourages the individual to 
discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources. 

Radical Self-expression. Radical self-expression arises from the 
unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual 
or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered 
as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the 
rights and liberties of the recipient. 

Communal Effort. Our community values creative cooperation 
and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect 
social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of 
communication that support such interaction. 

Civic Responsibility. We value civil society. Community mem- 
bers who organize events should assume responsibility for pub- 
lic welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities 
to participants. They must also assume responsibility for con- 
ducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws. 

Leaving No Trace. Our community respects the environment. 
We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities 
wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, 
whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than 
when we found them. 

Participation. Our community is committed to a radically partici- 
patory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether 
in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medi- 



um of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through 
doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. 
We make the world real through actions that open the heart. 

Immediacy. Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most im- 
portant touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to over- 
come barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our 
inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in so- 
ciety, and contact with a natural world exceeding human pow- 
ers. No idea can substitute for this experience. 

Today Burning Man has a global reach, with attendees from over 
two hundred cities and sixty -five officially affiliated events. The global 
influence of Burning Man stems from its large network of volun- 
teers. For years members of the regional Burning communities have 
come to San Francisco for an annual conference to learn the skills of 
business management, fundraising for art, permit-getting, and how- 
to knowledge-exchange. Two years ago Burning Man reframed that 
gathering as "The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference." It 
saw its network not just as people who helped put on Burning Man, 
but as a global volunteer workforce that could bring Burning Man's 
can-do problem-solving and community-oriented work to the world. 

The whole point of Burning Man, says founder Larry Harvey, is 
to create the world that you want to live in. We go through life operat- 
ing under a defined set of rules and roles. We follow a prescribed job. 
We exist in a prescribed city. "Here, you get to try things you might 
never have tried before. "[2] The stories of people who go to Burning 
Man are often the stories of personal transition and transformation. 
When my friend Steve Brown made a film about Burning Man, for 
example, he found that all of his characters were going through some 
transition. Katie, an artist, quit her job as a nanny to pursue her artis- 
tic passions. Casey Fenton came up with the idea of CouchSurfing, 
one of the first great projects of the "sharing economy." 

Larry Harvey and the Origins of Burning Man 

The Burning Man of today wasn't always a hotbed of experimen- 
tation, irreverence and community making. In 1986, Larry Harvey 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


Started Burning Man as a modest summer-solstice fire party on Baker 
Beach in San Francisco. Two groups were especially influential in 
shaping the early Burning Man culture - the followers of anarchist 
Hakim Bey and the San Francisco Cacophony Society. 

Bey's 1991 book, Temporary Autonomous Zones, is a manifesto 
for radical thinkers urging them to live authentically, in the present, 
and with complete self-expression. But to do so, said Bey, you must 
disengage from corporate and government authority - and not just 
theoretically or in your head, but in real physical space. [3] Bey sug- 
gested that there is an alternative world - a "temporary autonomous 
zone," or T.A.Z. - where, under the right conditions, you can create 
yourself One of the best descriptions of this social phenomenon is in 
Beautiful Trouble, a contemporary manual for artists and activists that 
pays homage to Bey: 

A T.A.Z. is a liberated area "of land, time or imagination" 
where one can be for something, not just against, and where 
new ways of being human together can be explored and experi- 
mented with. Locating itself in the cracks and fault lines in the 
global grid of control and alienation, a T.A.Z. is an eruption of 
free culture where life is experienced at maximum intensity. It 
should feel like an exceptional party where for a brief moment 
our desires are made manifest and we all become the creators 
of the art of everyday life. [4] 

Bey's idea of a T.A.Z. - published about the same time that Tim 
Berners-Lee was inventing the World Wide Web, but before it be- 
came a mass medium - was highly prescient. Bey anticipated by two 
decades a world of mobile everything - distributed computing, open 
source software, weak-tie enabled networks, social networking and 
distributed systems like Bitcoin and Open Mustard Seed. Bey's work 
seems like a manifesto for creative hacking - a way to prototype fan- 
ciful (and not so fanciful) alternatives to oppressive institutions. The 
idea of a T.A.Z. screams, "You've got permission, so use it!" 

At the time Bey was writing, the San Francisco Cacophony So- 
ciety was enacting many of the same ideas - creating street perfor- 



mances, jamming culture, and showing up at events in costumes. Ca- 
cophony members started attending Burning Man when it was still 
a party on Baker Beach. By 1993, after seven annual parties. Burning 
Man was finally evicted from the beach because it had grown too 
big and coialdn't secure the necessary permits. It was the Cacophony 
Society that invited Burning Man to undertake a "zone trip," an ex- 
tended event that takes participants outside of their local frames of 

And so it came to pass that Burning Man, the Cacophony Society, 
and Bay Area anarchists aU headed for the Black Rock desert, in Ne- 
vada, to reset Burning Man. 

Although Burning Man had not been founded with any subver- 
sive or transgressive agenda, it quickly veered in that direction. In 
the words of founder Larry Harvey, "We were not in any way a sub- 
culture, but this new group brought with it an underground ethos." 
This is when [Burning Man] began to be imagined as what Hakim 
Bey called an "interzone" - a secret oasis for an underground, a chink 
in the armor of society, a place where you can get in and get out, like 
some artistic Viet Cong, and get away with things. Bey called this 
"poetic terrorism." 

Those early years in the desert were free-wheeling. Anything 
went. Guns were common. Shooting at stuff from moving cars was 
a big thing. Burning Man wasn't so much of a city as a vast encamp- 
ment in the middle of nowhere. The idea was to make the event 
tough to find, and to take pride in surviving in the hostile environ- 
ment. Larry Harvey recalls: 

Our settlement began to leapfrog outward, forming a dispersed 
archipelago of separate campsites - a sort of gold rush in pur- 
suit of individual autonomy. This may have seemed romantic, 
but it meant that drivers would come rolling into this indeci- 
pherable scatter at reckless speeds, particularly at night, and 
this became a public safety concern. 

In many ways, this secret pirate "interzone" had run amok. Just 
as we had hidden our city away in the depths of the desert, we 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


had also hidden our gate. It was, in fact, a gate without a fence; 
sort of a conceptual gate, like an art installation. If you were 
lucky enough to find it, you would be instructed to drive so 
many miles north, and then turn east and drive five or six miles 
more. [5] 

While these Dadaist radicals were dedicated to freedom and self- 
expression, the early Burning Man culture was not especially inter- 
ested in an ordered liberty, a new sort of civil society or ecological 

Burning Man's Critical Transition 

In the end, anarchy didn't work out too well. 

Sometime after midnight on August 26, 1996, a speeding vehicle 
ran over two unmarked tents, critically injuring its occupants. At the 
center of Burning Man, where the theme that year was "inferno," 
some participants apparently took that theme as a license to play with 
fire without limits. People used flamethrowers in the open desert. 
They built multistory wooden structures made to be burned, practi- 
cally immolating their creators when ignited. 

This incident brought into sharp relief a question that had been 
reverberating among the founders: What was the purpose of Burning 
Man? And what was the moral intention they wanted to bring to this 
experiment in the desert? This conflict is captured dramatically in the 
documentary Spark: A Burning Man Story when Larry Harvey says, "It 
became apparent we were responsible for everybody's welfare. It was 
on us. We were de facto the state. Which was a conundrum for the 
hipsters. What does an anarchist say to that?" 

On the other side of the argument was the faction of anarchists 
and Cacophonists who came to the Nevada desert seeking a form 
of absolute freedom with no bureaucracy, no vehicle restrictions, 
no rules about guns, and no well-defined perimeter. That position is 
articulated by exasperated cofounder John Law, who complained: "I 
didn't want to be a cop! I could see where this was going, we'd need a 
bureaucratic infrastructure and we'd need to spin stuff. I couldn't do 
that, I couldn't be part of that."[6] 



It brought to the fore the question, What is the relationship be- 
tween law and freedom? Does law curtail human freedom as Hobbes 
claimed? Or does law protect and enhance our freedom as Locke ar- 
gues? Furthermore, who has the authority to make and enforce the 
law in a free society?"[7] 

For Harvey it came down to: Should the event be a civilized af- 
fair or a repudiation of order and authority? "If it's a repudiation of 
order and authority," he said, "and you are the organizer and invite 
thousands of people, what does that say about you? What kind of a 
moral position is that?" 

The absolutist position of the anarchists might work in small ho- 
mogeneous groups. But as Burning Man grew it faced the decision all 
political orders face: What kind of society are we making? How do 
we trade liberty and security? Harvey worried that cars in the night 
and the rest of the no-rules world were becoming something of a 
Hobbsean nightmare: "Things were disconnected and radical and a 
bit brutal, and you couldn't rely on people for community because 
there was none. And in the morning there was a political decision to 
be made: Were we a post-apocalyptic Mad Max society or were we a 
civil society?" 

"For those of us who marched out into the Black Rock Desert in 
1990," said Harvey, "there was an underlying irony awaiting us. You 
see, because there was no context in the desert apart from the context 
we created, we actually became the Establishment, as organizers of 
an event. Slowly, step-by-step, circumstances drove us to invent a gov- 
ernment. Without intending to, we'd stumbled onto the principle of 
Civic Responsibility. And maybe this is the essential genius of Burn- 
ing Man. Out of nothing, we created everything." 

For the founders of Burning Man, this was something of Federal- 
ist moment - a philosophical turning point in the evolution of this 
unique interzone. The founders of the United States had wrestled 
with the same issues - centralized authority versus distributed liberty, 
and how those structures would enhance or diminish equality. Now 
those same issues were being worked out on the playa. 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


In short order, Burning Man went from a random place in the 
desert to a pop-up city designed for self-expression and inclusiveness, 
a place where roads were marked and public spaces were created for 
art and communities to flourish. As Harvey recalled: 

As a result of the reforms we put into place in 1997, our city 
grew more civilized. Instead of driving cars at 100 miles-per- 
hour with the lights turned off, as was the fashion, people be- 
gan to encounter one another. Once we eliminated firearms, 
invented the Greeters, repurposed and reorganized the Rang- 
ers, created a street grid, regulated traffic, increased population 
densities, and gave everyone an address, people could more 
freely interact. Theme camps tripled, villages thrived, entire 
neighborhoods began to come alive. 

Perhaps that is the final irony — We ended up creating a world 
defined by free association and communal aid, rather like that 
dream of social harmony envisioned by the original anarchists. 
This was the beginning of the modern phase of Burning Man. 
The nascent institutions we'd invented, sometimes half in jest, 
became realities. Our city, many of us felt, had acquired a soul. 

The Design of a Civilized City 

The self-governing phenomena that plays out at Burning Man to- 
day draws on three arenas: 1) The principles and values established by 
the founders; 2) The emergent activity of thousands of participants, 
theme camps, and art project teams that embrace these principles as 
a framework - and then let loose with one of the most imaginative 
places on earth; and 3) The design of Black Rock City itself Getting 
the city right is what sets the stage for the creative explosion that 
is Burning Man. The city, like all great cities, is a platform for par- 
ticipation and creativity. In a very real sense Black Rock City knows 
what Jane Jacobs knew: if you get the streets right, if you get the ca- 
cophony of street life right, and if a you get scale right you will have 
a remarkable and flourishing society. 



Following the events of 1996, Burning Man undertook a new 
city design, turning to landscape designer Rod Garrett for a plan. He 
made a list of 200 urban planning goals looking at how his design 
might satisfy the greatest number. The design that evolved was a c- 
shaped semi-circle — with the giant Man at the center. Several defin- 
ing elements took shape: 

• The inner ring would be deemed the Esplanade, the main 
street, the boundary between the city and open space home 
to acres of art projects and roaming art cars, 'mutant vehi- 
cles' in the parlance of Burning Man. Camps would form in 
the residential zones of the outer ring, and the desert in the 
center would serve as stage for massive art. 

• Ordinary cars were banned. Walking, and bicycling became 
the modes of transportation at Burning Man, with art cars 
(licensed by the Department of Mutant Vehicles) also serving 
as the closest thing to public transportation. 

• One-third of the city-circle would remain open, connecting 
the city to the desert and a sense of transcendence. A closed 
circle might create a sense of constraint and oppressive den- 
sity. Garrett writes, "We will never further close that arc, as it 
is humbling to have the vast desert and sky intrude into our 
self-styled small world. The open side to the circular scheme 
takes on spiritual and psychological importance. Instead of 
completely circling the wagons, we invite the natural world 
to intrude, to lure participants away from our settlement and 
into the great silence and open space." 

You see these principles applied successfully in some of America's 
best urban experiments. The designers of Boulder, Colorado's pedes- 
trian mail told me that the project works because the mountains in 
the distance work as a "form of terminus - a place where the city 
fades into a different environment; the mountains anchor the project 
as the sea does for Santa Monica's pedestrian mail." [8] 

Each design decision helped define the culture. At one point 
Harvey was asked whether the Black Rock Rangers (volunteers who 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


rescue castaways and provide non-confrontational mediation when 
needed) ought to have a compound at the center of the city. Instead 
the center is home to art and civic rituals like the Lamplighters, a 
nightly procession that places 1,000 lanterns across the city center. 
Burning Man was to be an art state, not a police state. 

These physical cues create a scaffolding for creativity. Your rela- 
tionship to space changes when you take ownership for authoring it 
and don't just go to a place that the government or Disneyland makes 
for you. Radical self-expression and costumes usher you into experi- 
menting with things you might not normally do - further fostering 
creative play and innovation. 

Just as important is a sense of order that's dependable. The con- 
centric circles of streets intersected by radial avenues create a familiar 
landscape where its almost impossible to get lost. Streets are named 
alphabetically, and avenues are laid out along the dial of a clock with 
the civic center (Center Camp) at noon. No matter your state of 
mind or the hour, if you remember you're camped at 9:30 and B, you 
can get home. 

In 2010, shortly before his death, Garrett wrote about how this 
design emerged in response to the less friendly prior city: 

The new plan was to be strongly affected by our experience of 
the previous year and the example of 1996, with its disastrous 
consequence of uncontrolled sprawl. Our goal was to express 
and abet a sense of communal belonging, and establish popula- 
tion densities that would lead to social interactions. Concur- 
rently, we were attempting to recreate some of the intimacy 
of our original camping circle, but on a much larger civic scale. 
Above all, this city needed to work. It was vital that the flow 
of people and supplies in, out and within were unimpeded. 
The layout needed to provide for basic services, and be easily 
comprehended and negotiated. For continuity, it should incor- 
porate familiar features of the previous event sites, and be scal- 
able for future expansion. It also had to facilitate the art and 
expression of the community, and support past traditions and 
the principles of Burning Man. 



The designer Yves Behar who started attending Burning Man in 
2006 told the New York Times that Rod Garrett was a genius in creat- 
ing a city that was practical, expressive and a source of inspiration, 
calling it "a circular temporary city plan built around the spectacle 
of art, music and dance: I wish all cities had such a spirit of Utopia 
by being built around human interaction, community and participa- 

These ideas about urban design and life have come to infect 
Burners and then the real world. Tony Hsieh, a frequent Burner and 
founder of Zappos, the shoe company, decided to pursue a mas- 
sive $350 million revitalization of downtown Las Vegas. He's using 
festival-inspired design and programming to engage people — and to 
speed up the development of a vibrant city. Container parks and art 
cars create liveliness and engagement where there was empty space 

The Las Vegas Downtown Project has collaborated with Burning 
Man to bring fire -breathing sculptures and art cars to town; several 
are already delighting residents and attracting families. Hsieh sub- 
scribes to Geoffrey West's and Ed Glazer's theories on "urban colli- 
sions" - that by putting people in close quarters, creativity happens. 
That's one reason that Downtown Vegas is all about co-working; the 
goal is to get people out of the office and into coffee shops and co- 
working spaces so that connections might happen. 

The goal is not to build a smart city but rather "a city that makes 
you smart," with a TED-style theater so ideas flow every night. 
Hsieh's team funds startups and then make sure the place is running 
over with visiting mentors weekly: fashion one week, food the next, 
tech the next, social entrepreneurs the next, every month. The point 
is to make the place, like Burning Man, a canvas for hundreds of ex- 
periments and reduce the friction to get things started. For example, 
if you want to start a retail shop, the "container park" can provide 
cheap short-term leases so one can prototype a pop-up store and if 
it works, expand it to a permanent one. Try pulling that off in San 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


Art and Culture at Burning Man 

"Culture is a wonderful thing to order society," Larry Harvey told 
Time magazine in 2009. "I've noticed that whenever things get tough, 
the city fathers bring the artists to downtown!"[10] That has certainly 
been the case in Black Rock City, where art plays a leading role. Each 
year there are over 350 art installations, not including theme camps 
and hundreds of wild Mutant Vehicles. 

All that art accomplishes more than we might normally expect 
from "art." At Burning Man, the arts help forge community. They 
generate focal points around which teams and projects self-organize. 
Art projects are a principal way that Burning Man spreads its culture 
of permission, self-expression and agency. The art cars, sculptures, 
installations and other works are used to tell large-scale, immersive 
stories. They are a way to get 68,000 people to contemplate major 
social themes in a collective, almost dream-like manner. In this sense, 
art at Burning Man helps participants reframe their understanding of 
the world. 

Says Harvey, "I think that art should imitate life. But I'm not hap- 
py until life starts to imitate art. Every year we try to create an over- 
arching theme that's about the world. What good is all this if it's not 
about how to live the rest of your life?" 

In a place as tough and unforgiving as the Black Rock Desert, it 
takes stubborn commitment to get things done. Say you're building 
a giant steel or wood structure. First there is the challenge of getting 
the raw materials, along with the required construction equipment, 
to such a remote location. Then everything has to be assembled 
amidst extreme temperatures and frequent dust storms. And every- 
where is playa dust: PH 10, its alkalinity is a bit south of oven cleaner. 
Particle size: three microns, three times smaller than talc. At Burning 
Man, it's best to build and appreciate art in a particle mask. 

One of the most noteworthy and largest art installations each 
year is The Temple. The award of the temple commission each year 
is one of the highest honors in the Burning Man art community, and 
one of the greatest responsibilities. The temple is a place for contem- 
plation and remembering losses, where hundreds of messages and 



bits of memorabilia commemorating loved ones are left by Burners 
each year. While the burning of The Man is always a raucous celebra- 
tion, the temple burn - the last structure to burn each year - is quiet 
and somber. 

Jess Hobbs, co-founder of Flux Foundation, an Oakland-based 
collaborative, led The Temple of Flux team in 2012. It was the largest 
temple yet at Burning Man. Three hundred people spent four months 
building the abstract wooden structure, which consisted of five dou- 
ble-curved walls that created caves and canyon-like spaces. The piece 
was approximately one hundred feet deep, two hundred feet wide 
and forty feet tall. Hobbs told me that while building the temple takes 
skill and experience, they also invited anyone wishing to participate 
in the construction to do so. "We call ourselves vision holders. We 
hold on to the vision. We're not dictating how people get there, we 
let people choose their roles. You have to remind yourself the whole 
time this is not your project - 'I am not the owner, I am building a gift 
that will never be mine, it will be a destination for 60,000 people... 
And then it will burn!'" 

Hobbs' philosophy exemplifies how art actualizes Burning Man's 
values and inspires the creation of its self-forming city: 'Art is a plat- 
form for permission. We've grown up in a culture where you hear, 
'No' -'No, you don't have the degree for that.' 'No, we don't think 
you can do that.' 'No, this might not be the place for you.' The over- 
whelming philosophy at Flux, and the overwhelming philosophy at 
Burning Man," said Hobbs, "is to say 'Yes."'[l 1] 

In 2007, Burning Man's art theme was "Green Man," exploring 
"humanity's relationship to nature." Artist Karen Cusolito and Dan 
Das Mann created "Crude Awakening," one of the largest works of 
art ever at Burning Man and still its largest explosion. At the center 
was a 90 - foot tower styled after its namesake, the Reverend Oil Der- 
rick. Surrounding that were nine steel sculptures of humans from 
cultures around the world, many thirty feet tall, all worshiping at the 
altar of fossil fuel, evidently disciples of the flame-throwing religion 
of unsustainabiLity. 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


On Satxirday night, the Crude Awakening team set off a mas- 
sive audio-pyrotechnic finale. I was on the playa that year, and word 
spread that this would be the grandest explosion ever at Burning Man 
-2,000 gallons of propane and 900 gallons of jet fuel, expertly crafted 
to combust in a mushroom cloud - the closest thing to an atomic 
explosion any of us would ever (we hope) witness. I rode my bike 
about a thousand yards upwind of the tower, contemplating those 
other Nevada test shots and having no way to gauge what was about 
to happen. If there was a miscalculation, this might be an excellent 
place for distant contemplation. 

Ritual and Culture 

Art here is doing exactly what art is supposed to do: Ask ques- 
tions, dwell in ambiguity, look at things differently. But because this 
is Burning Man, it can happen at a scale that is almost impossible 
anywhere else. 

Art and ritual help Burning Man function as a classic Uminal ex- 
perience - a place to get unstuck, to take a new identity and to upend 
preconceived notions, so that you might come back anew. British an- 
thropologist Victor Turner, author of From Ritual to Theater; The Hu- 
man Seriousness of Play, studied liminality in "primitive" societies, but 
he could have been writing about Black Rock City. Liminal experien- 
ces are ways in which people challenge familiar understandings about 
their society - where normal limits to thought, self-understanding 
and behavior are undone and where the very structure of society is 
"temporarily suspended. These new symbols and constructions then 
feed back into the 'central' economic incentives, structural models, 
and raisons d'etre of a civilization." [12] 

Going up to the desert and getting liminal is useful when change 
is afoot in society. It's a way to suspend the traditional way of doing 
things, and, as if in a dream state, imagine and rehearse how things 
might evolve socially, economically and spiritually. 

Turner asserts the whole point of such rituals is to recombine 
culture into "any and every possible pattern, however weird." If we 
limit the possible combination of factors to "conventional patterns, 
designs, or figurations," then we might miss what is "potentially and 



in principle a free and experimental region of cultxire, a region where 
not only new elements but also new combinatory rules may be intro- 
duced far more readily." 

John Seely Brown, an authority on tech innovation who formerly 
led Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), has a contemporary 
take on the value of art to help us reframe our world, to "regrind our 
conceptual lenses." At a panel discussion about Burning Man at the 
Aspen Institute in 2013, he told me, 'Artists are not included in our 
debate on how we build the economy for the future. They're exclud- 
ed in our nation's emphasis on innovation, which has been left to the 
STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] crowd. We're 
not thinking about designing for emergence. Innovation is about see- 
ing the world differently. Who is better at helping us see the world 
differently than the artists?" [13] 

Burning Man in the World 

The Burning Man organization is increasingly focused on how to 
extend its ideas and values beyond the playa and into the world. It has 
organized 225 regional liaisons as the Burning Man Global Leader- 
ship Community. The sense of agency and permission Burners bring 
to the playa is often reflected at home, especially in San Francisco, 
where we use creative play and experimentation to further civic and 
artistic aims. The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (where I serve 
as co-founder and chairman) created the Urban Prototyping Festi- 
val to build urban innovation apps and experimental projects in San 
Francisco, Singapore and London. This year the San Francisco Plan- 
ning Commission is making citizen prototyping a formal part of city 
planning along two miles of Market Street. A group called Freespace 
started by Burner Mike Zuckerman has persuaded landlords in thir- 
teen countries to "gift" unused space to the community as a tempo- 
rary place to prototype, teach and launch projects. 

Michael Yarne, a Burner, former city official and real-estate devel- 
oper, got fed up with San Francisco's government and launched UP, a 
nonprofit to promote neighborhood-based "green benefit districts." 
These are a form of micro-government that allows communities to 
vote an assessment and have direct and transparent control over hy- 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


perlocal projects like mini-parks, green lighting, energy generation 
and even shared rainwater cisterns for irrigation. The San Francisco 
Board of Supervisors approved enabling legislation for the program, 
and Yarne is now looking to take the concept to other cities. 

The most visible Burner influence on San Francisco is surely the 
Bay Lights, arguably the largest public artwork in America. Burner 
Ben Davis had the idea to transform 1.5 miles of the San Francisco Bay 
Bridge into a sculpture illuminated by 25,000 light-emitting diodes. It 
was an audacious act to imagine this iconic, 75-year old bridge as a 
canvas and then to recruit the support of three San Francisco mayors, 
secure aU the necessary permissions, and raise over seven million dol- 
lars in just a couple of years. Artist Leo VUlareal, also a Burner, de- 
signed the project. He began working with light on the playa in 1994 
to help find his way back to camp in the vast darkness of the desert 
night. Today he is one of the top light sculptors in the world, his work 
now part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern 
Art in New York and the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum in 
Kagawa, Japan. 

Something all of these projects have in common: each is an Au- 
tonomous Zone as imagined by Hakim Bey, whose influence, medi- 
ated by Burning Man, has become part of our culture. 

Burners Without Borders 

Burning Man's most global initiative is Burners Without Borders, 
a disaster relief and capacity-building nonprofit that draws on the 
festival's unique ethos and skill set. Afi;er Hurricane Katrina struck 
the Gulf Coast on the very first day of Burning Man in 2005, Brian 
Behlendorf founder of Apache Software, recalled the surreal mood 
on the playa when people learned of the devastation and civil break- 
down. A food drive and donation effort were immediately organized 
while groups of Burners began to self-organize treks to the Gulf 
Coast with heavy equipment and generators in tow. 

Upon arriving in Louisiana, Burners set up their headquarters 
in the parking lot and built what would soon become a distribution 
center for Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities. Eventually, the 
parking lot became a free grocery store for the community. When 



word got out about what Burners Without Borders was doing, one 
manufacturer of industrial equipment donated a brand-new heavy 
loader to the group. Armed with this, Burners Without Borders were 
completing projects that had once taken days in a matter of hours. 

With so much experience in self-organizing their own munici- 
pal infrastructure in a hostile environment. Burners are particularly 
skilled at functioning during chaotic crises when normal services - 
running water, electricity, communications channels and sanitation 
systems - are not available. Burners don t just survive in such an envi- 
ronment; they create culture, art, and community there. 

BWB founder Carmen Muak told me they learned a lot about 
how to provide disaster relief in a sustainable manner: "You don't 
need trailers when you can use domes. You use local materials. You 
find a way to help the community through its grief" In rural Pearling- 
ton, Missisippi, they did just that, both tearing down destroyed struc- 
tures and building new houses. And then they drew on their Burning 
Man temple experience. "There was so much beautiful debris around. 
People had antiques in their homes forever, handed down for genera- 
tions. You'd find a huge claw-foot dining room table leg, waterlogged 
chairs. On Saturdays we'd make art together. At night we'd all come 
together silently for a Burn. It was cathartic."[14] Larry Harvey told 
me, "FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] would 
send in grief councilors. We'd create a temple burn. We found our 
culture had a lot to offer down there."[15] 

Prototype City, Prototype Future 

Burning Man the festival is really Burning Man the prototype 
maker city. It is a place where participants create their urban expe- 
rience, infrastructure and art. Over its twenty-eight years Burning 
Man has evolved a balance between top-down structures and cura- 
tion and a fiercely autonomous, independent community that builds 
the city as it sees fit. Everyone can be a Robert Moses autonomously 
green-lighting fanciful projects or a Jane Jacobs using art and culture 
to forge social capital. It works because the shared community prin- 
ciples work. 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


Burners also share a similar fear: What if this year is the last? 
What if this year it gets too big or loses its magic? What if it all goes 
bland? This sense of paranoia, that the whole thing really might be 
just a temporary gift, inspires a constant sense of renewal and rein- 
vention. Two years ago my camp. Disorient, decided it was too big 
and downsized to recapture its culture. It was painful but it worked. 
When is the last time you heard of a bureaucracy voluntarily disman- 
tling itself to build anew? Ephemeral cites have the advantage of less 

Burning Man fosters great agency and responsibility - a more 
engaged form of citizenship not just in Black Rock City, but in the 
real world to which participants return. This ethic is nourished be- 
cause Black Rock City embraces the prototypical and temporary - 
which allows for play, learning and immediacy. These are lessons that 
are being applied to cities around the world through projects such as 
Freespace, Urban Prototyping, the Bay Lights, the Downtown Por- 
ject in Las Vegas, and many other Burner-inspired projects. 

Burning Man is also a place to reassess and try out values that may 
have trouble being expressed in our very commercial society The 
gifting economy and decommodifcation of experience seem fantas- 
tic and redolent of a bygone hippie culture - until we realize that our 
modern lifestyles are based on unsustainable forms of consumption 
and that capitalism itself must be reinvented. Burning Man nurtures 
social capital to consider such challenges. 

And yet Burning Man is in the end just a temporary, one-week- 
a-year city. It is more of a concept car than street-legal vehicle. But 
like a concept car, it's a collection of new ideas and odd ones ready to 
be adapted and applied to our world. Burning Man didn't invent the 
festival, the art car or the Temporary Autonomous Zone any more 
than Apple invented the personal computer. But like that other ven- 
turesome innovator in California, Burning Man executed the concept 
beautifully, and through its work is having an outsized impact on our 
culture - and quite possibly on our future. 



Peter Hirshherg is chairman of Re:imagine Group, where he shapes strategies at the 
confluence of people, places, brands and cities. As advisor to United Nations Global 
Pulse, he has addressed the General Assembly on real-time data for international devel- 
opment. A cofounder of San Francisco's Gray Area Center for Arts and Technology, he 
has led urban prototyping and open data projects for cities worldwide. Peter was an ex- 
ecutive at Apple Computer for nine years, CEO of Elemental Software and Chairman of 
social media search engine Technorati. He is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Cen- 
ter on Communication Leadership and a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. 


[1] Burners take pride in leaving no trace behind and know not to bring in feathers, 
sequins or any other "moopy-poopy" materials. See http:/ /blog.burningman. 
com / 2012/09/ environment / moop-map-live-20 12-the-day-we-fail-to-leave-no- 

[2] Time magazine video, "5 Things Cities Can Learn from Burning 
Man," [2009], available at http://content.time. com/time/video/play- 
er /0,32068,39616455001_1921966,00.html. 

[3] Hakin Bay [Peter Lamborn Wilson], Temporary Autonomous Zones (Autonome- 
dia, 1991). See also 

[4] Boyd, Andrew, Mitchell, Dave Oswald, Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution 
(OR Books, 2012). 

[5] https:/ /blog.burningman. com/ 2013 / 1 1 /tenprinciples/how-the-west-was- 

[6] Interview in film. Spark: A Burning Man Story (Spark Pictures, 2013); see http: / / 

[7] From a dinner conversation between the author and Larry Harvey in London. 
Referring to the debate about "freedom" that arose after the 1996 events, he told 
me: "In the end Burning Man is about what is freedom. Nobody lost freedom 
when we put in rules to keep people from getting run over in the desert." We 
were discussing the fact that Hobbesean freedom is absolute whereas Lockean 
freedom (as outlined in his Second Treatise on Civil Government) says, "But 
though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license." 

[8] Conversation with Daniel Aizenman, LEED AP at the architectural design firm 
Stantec ViBE, which created the Boulder shopping maU. Aizenman and I were 
discussing what makes spaces like these work or fail. 

[9] Fred A. Bernstein, "Rod Garrett, the Urban Planner Behind 'Burning Man': Its 
Leadership Lessons, Its Changing Face," The New York Times, August 28, 2011, 
available at http: / / 201 1 /08/29 / arts/ rod-garrett-the-urban- 

Hirshherg \ Burning Man 


[10] Larry Harvey quoted in Time magazine mini-documentary on Burning Man, 2009. 
Interview available at https;//, 
see 5;40. 

[11] Private conversation with the author. See also Hobbs' talk at the Catalyst Cre- 
ative series in Downtown Las Vegas on March 27, 2014, an event coproduced by 
the Downtown Project and Burning Man. See also a talk by Karen Cusolito of 
American Steel. 

[12] Turner, Victor, "Liminal to Liminoid in Play, Flow, and Ritual: An Essay in Com- 
parative Symbology" Rice University Studies, 60(3) (1974), pp. 53-92. 

[13] Quoted in John Seely Brown's blog, February 2014, at http:/ / www.johnseely- newsletter_febl4.html. 

[14] Author interview with Carmen Muak, Las Vegas, 2014. 

[15] Discussion with Larry Harvey, London, February 2014. 

Part II 


Chapter 6 

The Internet of Money 

B^i Irving Wladawsky-Berger 

In 2010, THE BBC and the British Museum collaborated in a project 
called "A History of the World." The project sought to tell the his- 
tory of humanity over the past two million years by examining one 
hundred objects irom the collection of the British Museum. [1] One 
of the themes was money, which was represented by four objects: 
one of the world's first gold coins produced in Western Turkey over 
2500 years ago; one of the first paper banknotes, a 1375 bill from the 
Ming Dynasty; a "pieces of eight" silver coin from the late 16th Cen- 
tury, used throughout the Spanish Empire as one of the first global 
currencies; and a credit card exemplifying the increasingly intangible 
character of money in the modern world. 

Money was not necessary when people lived in small communi- 
ties where they knew and trusted their neighbors and could therefore 
exchange labor, food or goods in kind. But the need for something 
like money arose once communities started to expand and people 
were dealing with strangers they may never see again and could not 
trust. It has since played a central role in the rise of civilizations and 
in human affairs of all kinds. Financial innovations have given rise to 
commerce and economies, enabled the organization of companies 
and public institutions, and helped communities become more pro- 
ductive and raise their standard of living. 

Money is now undergoing another massive transformation - one 
that may presage the same order of civilizational change as previous 
eras experienced. The same digital technologies that are transform- 
ing most aspects of our lives are now ushering forth the concept of 
digital money. This historical transition is going to be one of the most 
exciting and important societal challenges of the coming decades. Its 



impact will rival other major technology-based societal transforma- 
tions, including electricity, radio and Ty and the Internet and World 
Wide Web. 

The evolution to a global digital money ecosystem involves a lot 
more than the transformation of money (cash, checks, credit and 
debit cards, etc.) from physical objects in our wallets to digital ob- 
jects that can now be carried in our smart mobile devices. The com- 
ing shift encompasses the whole money ecosystem: the payment 
infrastructures in use around the world; the financial flows among 
institutions and between institutions and individuals; government 
regulatory regimes; the systems for managing personal identities and 
financial data; the systems for managing security and privacy; and so 
on. Just about every aspect of the world's economy is involved. 

The explosive growth of Internet-connected mobile devices is 
the driving force behind what we might call the emerging Internet 
of Money. For the past twenty years, the Internet has been an incred- 
ible platform for innovation. In its earlier days, the Internet was truly 
empowering only for those with the means to use it. But ongoing ad- 
vances in digital technologies are now benefiting just about everyone 
on the planet. Mobile phones and Internet access have gone from a 
luxury to a necessity that most everyone can now afford. 

A recent McKinsey & Co. study examined the top twelve disrup- 
tive technology advances that will transform life, business and the 
global economy in the coming years. [2] The mobile Internet was at 
the top of its list: 

Equipped with Internet-enabled mobile computing devices and 
apps for almost any task, people increasingly go about their dai- 
ly routines using new ways to understand, perceive and interact 
with the world. . . However, the full potential of the mobile 
Internet is yet to be realized; over the coming decade, this tech- 
nology could fuel significant transformation and disruption, 
not least from its potential to bring two billion to three billion 
more people into the connected world, mostly from develop- 
ing economies. 

Wladawsky-Berger \ The Internet of Money 


It's not surprising that advances in information technologies go 
hand-in-hand with the growing importance of digital money. Money 
and information have been closely intertwined from time immemo- 
rial. Archaeologists and historians have shown that transactional re- 
cords are among the earliest examples of writing, long predating the 
minting of gold and silver coins. The oldest known writing system 
is assumed to have been developed in ancient Mesopotamia around 
the 4th millennium BC to keep track of information about economic 

It's noteworthy that as physical money is being increasingly re- 
placed by its digital representations somewhere out there in the 
cloud, we seem to be returning to its ancient roots, where keep- 
ing track of money was all about managing information. Not only 
is money increasingly represented by information, but information 
about money is itself becoming a form of money. Walter Wriston, 
chairman and CEO of Citibank from 1967 to 1984 - widely regarded 
as one of the most influential bankers of his generation - famously 
said: "Information about money has become almost as important as money 
itself."[3] I think we can now update his remark to read: "Information 
about money is money. " Such information is increasingly valuable for 
personalized marketing, fraud detection and other applications. 

Similarly, a recent report by the World Economic Forum, "Per- 
sonal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class," observed: 'As 
some put it, personal data will be the new oil - a valuable resource 
of the 21st century. It will emerge as a new asset class touching all 
aspects of society."[4] Much of that valuable personal data is related 
to our past, present and future financial transactions. 

In addition, money is inexorably linked to identity and trust. 
Thus, the transition to universal digital money has to be accompa- 
nied by a similar transition to universal digital identity management 
and to digital trust frameworks. (See Chapter 13, "The IDS Open 
Mustard Seed Platform," by Thomas Hardjono et al.) To be effective, 
digital money must be accompanied by innovations to help us se- 
curely identify individuals as they conduct transactions through their 
mobile devices. 



Throughout the world, many poor people cannot prove who 
they are. Their lack of a birth certificate or some other identity docu- 
ments excludes them from participating in many of the activities that 
we take for granted in a modern economy. The Indian government 
has embarked on a massive Unique ID (UID) initiative known as Aad- 
haar that aims to issue each resident in India a unique, twelve-digit 
number. [5] The numbers will be stored in a centralized database and 
be linked to basic demographics and biometric information. 

Among other benefits, Aadhaar wiU help poor and underprivi- 
leged residents of India participate in the world's digital economy, 
and thus to avail themselves of the many services provided by the 
government and the private sector Given the considerable benefits 
that accrue to everyone - individuals, governments and business - we 
can expect similar digital identity projects to emerge in economies 
around the world, but especially in nations where a significant por- 
tion of residents have few if any dealings with financial institutions. 

The emergence of the Internet of Money and new kinds of digi- 
tal currencies is raising many thorny questions, however: Can digi- 
tal money ecosystems be based on existing national currencies or do 
they require entirely new sorts of digital currencies? What about the 
future of Bitcoin, the most prominent such digital currency? 

So far, the development of digital money ecosystems has been 
almost exclusively based on traditional currencies that all the parties 
involved understand - e.g., $, £, €, ¥. Most people are reluctant to 
introduce new digital currencies into the mix, at least at this time, 
because of the formidable complexities. However, digital currencies, 
and decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in particular, cannot 
be ignored because they represent significant advances in the devel- 
opment of an Internet-based digital money ecosystem. 

The Future of Bitcoin 

Bitcoin is both a digital currency and a peer-to-peer payment 
system. Introduced in 2009, it uses cryptography to control the cre- 
ation and transfer of money. It's not backed by central governments 
or banks. The private Bitcoin Foundation manages its technical stan- 
dards, security concerns and general promotion. As a currency based 

Wladawsky-Berger \ The Internet of Money 


on open source software, Bitcoin's sophisticated protocols are widely 
available, which has helped boost its usage and prominence. 

The rapid growth of Bitcoin has attracted much attention in re- 
cent months, not just because of legal issues (the arrest of an alleged 
black market trader who used Bitcoin; the bankruptcy of a Bitcoin 
currency exchange) but because of the actual or perceived threats 
that Bitcoin and digital currencies pose to the status quo. 

One of the most prominent recent commentaries on Bitcoin was 
"Why Bitcoin Matters," published in the New York Times by Marc An- 
dreessen, the technologist, entrepreneur and investor.[6] Andreessen 
compares Bitcoin in 2014 to personal computers in 1975 and the In- 
ternet in 1993: an embryonic technology poised to take off. His VC 
firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has invested close to $50 million in Bit- 
coin-related start-ups and continues to actively search for additional 
such investment opportunities. In his column, Andreessen pointed 
out that there is an enormous gulf between what the press, econo- 
mists and others believe Bitcoin is, and what a number of technolo- 
gists and entrepreneurs like him are so excited about: 

First, Bitcoin at its most fundamental level is a breakthrough in 
computer science - one that builds on 20 years of research into 
cryptographic currency, and 40 years of research in cryptogra- 
phy, by thousands of researchers around the world. . . Bitcoin 
gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to trans- 
fer a unique piece of digital property [e.g., money, signatures, 
contracts, stocks and bonds] to another Internet user, such 
that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone 
knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can chal- 
lenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this 
breakthrough are hard to overstate. 

Andreessen lauds Bitcoin as a new kind of peer-to-peer payment 
system - "a way to exchange money or assets between parties with 
no preexisting trust. . . the first Internet-wide payment system where 
transactions either happen with no fees or very low fees (down to 
fractions of pennies). Existing payment systems charge fees of about 



2 to 3 percent - and that's in the developed world. In lots of other 
places, there either are no modern payment systems or the rates are 
significantly higher." 

As a digital currency, Bitcoin has been quite volatile, with large 
fluctuations in value over days, weeks and months. In early 2014, the 
exchange rate of a bitcoin was fluctuating between $500 and $900. 
Its volatility is largely due to speculation and relatively low payment 
volumes. Despite its positive qualities as a highly secure digital pay- 
ment system, many believe that the currency's volatility wiU likely 
drive away the vast majority of individuals and merchants. Andrees- 
sen disagrees: 

The criticism that merchants wiU not accept Bitcoin because 
of its volatility is also incorrect. Bitcoin can be used entirely 
as a payment system; merchants do not need to hold any Bit- 
coin currency or be exposed to Bitcoin volatility at any time. 
Any consumer or merchant can trade in and out of Bitcoin and 
other currencies any time they want. 

A few weeks ago, technology journalist Glenn Fleishman wrote 
an article refuting a number of Andreessen's arguments. [7] The ar- 
ticle starts out by agreeing that Bitcoin represents a major innovation 
in payment systems: 

I agree with Andreessen that Bitcoin is the first practical, large- 
scale mechanism to deal with the problem of decentralizing 
trust - no parties need know each other nor trust each other 
for transactions to complete successfully, verifiably and irrevo- 
cably. . . I also agree completely with Andreessen that Bitcoin 
can be used for an enormous number of non-currency related 
purposes in which permanent, irreversible proofs of transac- 
tions are required. 

But he then goes on to argue with many of the points made by 
Andreessen, including Bitcoin's liquidity and low fees, and its claimed 
advantages in preventing fraud, theft and other illegal activities. This 
past November, Fleishman published an article in The Economist, "Bit- 

Wladawsky-Berger \ The Internet of Money 


coin under Pressure," which carried the tag line: "It is mathematically 
elegant, increasingly popular and highly controversial. Bitcoin's suc- 
cess is putting it under growing strain." [8] He goes on to explain his 

Bitcoin's success has revealed three weaknesses in particular. It 
is not as secure and anonymous as it seems; the mining system 
that both increases the Bitcoin supply and ensures the integ- 
rity of the currency has led to an unsustainable computation- 
al arms-race; and the distributed-ledger system is becoming 
unwieldy. Will Bitcoin's self-correcting mechanisms, and the 
enlightened self-interest of its users, be able to address these 
weaknesses and keep Bitcoin on the rails? . . . Perhaps Bitcoin, 
like the Internet, will smoothly evolve from a quirky experi- 
ment to a trusted utility. But it could also go the way of Nap- 
ster, the trailblazing music-sharing system that pioneered a new 
category, but was superseded by superior implementations that 
overcame its technical and commercial flaws. 

Fleishman believes that Bitcoin offers an opportunity to reimag- 
ine how the financial system can and should work in the Internet era. 
But he makes a distinction between its future as a technology and its 
future as a currency. "Bitcoin shows a path for massively more secure, 
reliable and sensible ways to store value and move it around. As a cur- 
rency, I have little faith that it will become a replacement for dollars, 
euros or renminbi. As a model for a future payment and transaction 
system, I believe it's already shown its value." 

Fleishman's conclusion, which I agree with, is similar to that of 
top payments expert Karen Webster, who wrote at the end of 2013: 
"Our prediction is that those who are in the best position to exploit 
Bitcoin's success will be those who recognize that there's a difference 
between the technology that enables Bitcoin and Bitcoin the curren- 
cy and will invest in perfecting the former and not the latter."[9] 

A number of recent articles have been quite negative. At a panel 
in the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Yale economist and 
Nobel Laureate Robert Schiller said that Bitcoin "is just an amazing 



example of a bubble." As reported in Business Insider, SchiUer said that 
while he finds Bitcoin to be an inspiration because of the computer 
science, he does not think of it as an economic advance and views it 
as a return to the dark ages. SchiUer, an expert on economic bubbles, 
believes that much of its fascination is due to its extreme volatility. 

Another Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, chose 
the title "Bitcoin is Evil" for one of his recent New York Times col- 
umns. [1 1] Krugman's main reason for his negative views is similar to 
that of author Charlie Stross, who wrote a strong critique of Bitcoin 
called "Why I Want Bitcoin to Die in a Fire." Stross writes: 

Like aU currency systems, Bitcoin comes with an implicit politi- 
cal agenda attached. Decisions we take about how to manage 
money, taxation and the economy have consequences: by its 
consequences you may judge a finance system. . . Bitcoin looks 
like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central 
banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political 
agenda in mind - to damage states' ability to collect tax and 
monitor their citizens financial transactions. [12] 

Finally, there is the question whether Bitcoin and other virtual 
currencies should be subject to financial regulations similar to those 
currently in place for existing currencies. Anti-money laundering is 
one such regulation enforced by governments around the world to 
curtail illicit activities like the flow of money from the drug trade and 
the financing of terrorist activities. Bitcoin has been linked to such 
illicit activities, which has led to a few recent arrests. 

Governments have started looking at how to regulate Bitcoin and 
similar digital currencies. 

A recent New York Times article, "More Bitcoin Regulation is Inev- 
itable," concluded: "The days of anonymous transactions in Bitcoin 
and operating an exchange with no outside interference are over. As 
virtual currencies develop, firms devoted to aiding trading, and per- 
haps even their users, wiU encounter greater government regulation, 
along with the costs that come with compliance. "[13] 

Wladawsky-Berger \ The Internet of Money 


Most everyone agrees that for the foreseeable future, the bulk 
of the money flowing in digital money ecosystems will continue to 
be based on existing currencies, with digital currencies playing im- 
portant niche roles. Given Bitcoin's current problems, it's not clear 
whether it will be one of the surviving digital currencies. But regard- 
less of Bitcoin's fate, its cryptographic advances, distributed architec- 
ture and other key technologies will play major roles in the develop- 
ment of a digital money ecosystem for the Internet era. 

Irving Wladawsky-Berger spent 37 years at IBM, where his primary focus was on 
innovation and technical strategy. He led a number of IBM's companywide initiatives 
including the Internet and e-business, supercomputing and Linux. In March 2008, 
Wladawsky-Berger joined Citi as Strategic Advisor, working on innovation and tech- 
nology initiatives including the transition to mobile digital money and payments. He 
is Visiting Lecturer at M.I. T., Adjunct Professor at Imperial College, and Executive-in- 
Residence at NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress. In April 2012 he became a 
regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal. 


[1] BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects," at ahisto- 

[2] James Manyika, Michael Chui et al., McKinsey Global Institute, "Disruptive 
Technologies: Advances that Will Transform Life, Business and the Global Econ- 
omy," May 2013, athttp:/ / 
disruptive_technologies?cid= disruptive_tech-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth- 1305. 

[3] World Economy Forum, "Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class," 
January 2011, available at http:/ / 
sonalDataNewAsset_Report_20 1 1 .pdf 

[4] Thomas A. Bass, "The Future of Money," Wired, October 1996, at http: / / www. 
wired, com / wired / archive / 4. 1 0 / wriston.html. 

[5] "Reform by Numbers," The Economist, January 14, 2012, available at http:/ / 

[6] Marc Andreessen, "Why Bitcoin Matters," T/ie New Ybrfe Times, January 21, 2014, 
available at http: / / IcQPoqa. 

[7] Glenn Fleishman, "On the Matter of Why Bitcoin Matters," The Magazine on 
Medium, available athttps:/ / 

[8] "Bitcoin under Pressure," The Economist, November 27, 2013, available at http: / / news/ technology-quarterly/21590766-virtual-currency- 


[9] Karen Webster, "Looking Ahead at the Close of 2013,", available 
at http: / / 
2013/ looking-ahead-at-the-close-of-20 1 3 . 

[10] Joe Weisenthal, "Robert Shiller: Bitcoin is an Amazing Example of a Bubble," 
January 24, 2014, available at 

[11] Paul Krugman, "Bitcoin is Evil," The New York Times, December 28, 2013, avail- 
able at http:/ / 

[12] Charlie Stross, "Why I Want Bitcoin to Die in a Fire," Charlie's Diary, December 
28, 2013, available at 

[13] Peter J. Hernning, "More Bitcoin Regulation Is Inevitable," The New York Times, 
February 3, 2014, available at http: / / 02/03/more- 
type=blogs&ref=business&_r= 1 . 

Chapter 7 

Why Complementary Currencies 
Are Necessary to Financial Stability: 
The Scientific Evidence 

By Bernard Lietaer 

Conventional economists tend to regard complementary currencies 
as an anomaly, to be dismissed as an irrelevant or romantic distrac- 
tion. Regulators tolerate them, as long as they remain marginal. If 
any were ever to grow to a relevant size, they believe such monetary 
innovations should be suppressed lest they disturb monetary policy 
or reduce the efficiency of the price formation process. [1] 

But this belief is incorrect: A recent scientific breakthrough pro- 
vides evidence that a monopoly of one single type of currency is a 
systemic cause for the prevailing monetary and financial instability. In 
fact, it will be shown that, far from being a disturbance, a variety of 
monetary media is necessary for economic and financial stability in a 
society. This conclusion stems from a structural flaw in our modern 
monetary system, a flaw that has played an unacknowledged role in 
every crash since the Dutch tulip bubble burst in 1637, including the 
one we are experiencing now! 

The proof for this claim comes from fundamental laws that gov- 
ern all complex flow systems, including natural ecosystems, economic 
and financial systems. Recent theoretical breakthroughs now make it 
possible to measure quantitatively, with a single metric, the sustain- 
ability of any complex flow system, based on the emergent proper- 
ties of its structural diversity and interconnectivity. Furthermore, we 
can now see that whenever diversity in a complex flow network is be- 
ing sacrificed because of too much emphasis on efificiency, systemic 
collapses are a totally predictable consequence. 



For generations, we have been living worldwide with a mono- 
culture of the same type of media of exchange - a single national 
currency monopoly in each country, created everywhere through 
bank-issued debt. Neither Marxist nor various capitalist schools of 
economic thought find this troubling. The main diflFerence in this 
respect between communism of the Marxist-Leninist variety on the 
one side, and capitalism on the other, is that in the former, govern- 
ments always own the banks. While in the latter, governments own 
the banks only afi;er they have gone bankrupt. Indeed, in capitalism, 
private investors are normally supposed to be in control. 

But the functioning of the money system itself is the same in 
both instances: both rely on a single national currency created 
through bank debt. The structural solution to economic and finan- 
cial instability in both cases is also clear, even if it appears shockingly 
unorthodox: we need to diversify the types of currencies available in 
a society and the types of agents that are creating them, specifically 
through complementary currencies. 

The Sustainability of Complex Flow Systems 

We now can demonstrate that a structural fault is involved in 
generating financial crashes. Quantitative ecological research has 
provided empirical substantiation of this mechanism and a deeper 
understanding of its dynamics. A fully documented, step-by-step 
mathematical proof of the claims made below can be found in a sem- 
inal paper by Ulanowicz, Goerner, Lietaer and Gomez, whose most 
relevant points are summarized here. [2] 

Information is any "difference that makes the diflFerence," Greg- 
ory Bateson famously declared, and, as the binary logic of the digital 
age has popularized, such difference almost always involves the ab- 
sence of something. Information theory (IT), in studying the work- 
ing of whole systems, is a means for apprehending and quantifying 
what is missing from representations. The key point is that if one is to 
address the issue of sustainability, then the inchoate, undetermined 
"potentiality" of a system must also become the focus of inquiry, be- 
cause it is the source of the resilience that allows the entire system to 
persist. [3] 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


What IT tells us is that a system's capacity to undergo change has 
two components: an order component, called "mutual constraint," 
quantifies aU that is regular, orderly, coherent and efficient. It encom- 
passes basically all the concerns of conventional science. This first 
component is an analogue of Newton s Third Law of Motion, or of 
the Chinese Yang construct. 

By contrast, the second component represents the lack of those 
same attributes, or the irregular, disorderly, incoherent and inefficient 
potential behaviors that have escaped the scrutiny of science. They 
are ignored or discounted mainly because they cannot easily be de- 
scribed, are less readily repeated or measured, or all of the above. 
This component corresponds to the Chinese Yin. 

In the jargon of IT, this second, usually overlooked component of 
system change is called "conditional entropy"; it can also be thought 
of as uncommitted potential. The very absence of order (even if its 
potential is never activated and therefore goes unnoticed and unmea- 
sured) plays the key role in a system's long-term stability. This un- 
committed potential enables a system to adapt to a changing environ- 
ment and survive unexpected challenges. 

If we are to understand sustainabUity we must recognize that the 
absence of order is even more significant than the first variable, order. 
A living system adapts in homeostatic fashion to buffer variability in 
performance by expending what Odum called "reserves." [4] The re- 
serve in this case is not some palpable storage such as a cache of some 
material resource. Rather, it is the capacity to show flexibility and 
adaptability to new circumstances - and it usually requires some loss 
of efficient performance. [5] Systems that endure - that is, are sustain- 
able - are able to achieve a dynamic balance between these two poles 
of order and disorder, efficient performance and adaptive resilience. 

Let us now define more precisely our terminology: 

• Efficiency is defined as the capacity of a complex flow system 
to process a given volume of whatever flows through it, per 
unit of time - e.g., grams of biomass per square meter per 
year for a natural ecosystem; GDP per capita in an economy; 
or billions of dollars per day in an electronic payment system. 



• Resilience is the capacity of a complex flow network to survive 
an attack, a disease, or adapt to a change in its environment. 

A crucial finding from the study of complex flow systems is that 
efficiency is definitely not a sufficient metric for achieving sustainabU- 
ity Metrics such as GDP or return on investment to capital are not 
sufficient to assess economic sustainabiUty because they cannot dis- 
tinguish between healthy sustainable growth and short-term bubbles 
doomed to coUapse. For a complex flow system to be sustainable, 
it must possesses enough resilience, which can be understood as an 
undefined and contingent responsiveness to the unpredictable chal- 
lenges thrown up by a system's own workings and its environment. 

A Chinese Insight 

"When Yang and Yin combine appropriately, all things achieve 
harmony," according to Lao Tse in Tao Te King #42. This dialectic 
between efficiency and resilience is the "go and get" and the "let go 
and give" of life. In the Chinese philosophical tradition, yang and yin 
characteristics are assigned to all natural systems. In Asia the con- 
cepts of Yin-Yang are seen as necessary complements to each other. 
Their history goes back thousands years, to Siberian shamanism and 
to the Yi Jing (the Book of Changes), attributed to King Wen of Zhou 
(1099-1050 BC). The explicit Weltanschauung of Chinese philosophy 
is precisely the need for all aspects of nature and life to strike an ap- 
propriate balance between Yang and Yin energies. 

For the first time in history, to our knowledge. Western science is 
now able to prove in a quantitative way the validity and depth of this 
Taoist discovery. So let us give credit to this ancient Eastern insight 
that has been so widely ignored in the West, to the point we don't 
even have words to express this idea. 

C.G.Jung was one of the first to express regret that our Western 
culture is not more familiar with the concept of Yang and Yin: "Un- 
fortunately, our Western mind, lacking all culture in this respect, has 
never yet devised a concept, nor even a name, for the 'union of op- 
posites through the middle path', that most fundamental item of in- 
ward experience, which could respectably be set against the Chinese 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


concept of Tao/' If our use of this Yin-Yang vocabulary risks appear- 
ing exotic, it is simply because we don't have any equivalent words in 
any of our Western languages. 

Oriental philosophers have developed an infinite number of ways 
to describe the Yin-Yang relationship and polarity. The following fig- 
ure offers those selected as most relevant for our purpose. The fol- 
lowing figure identifies attributes most relevant to our inquiry here. 

Yin- Yang Characteristics 

Yang Coherence 

Yin Coherence 

■ Competitiorn 
' Hoarding, accumulating^ 
' Goal Setting, Performance-Growth 
Having. Doing 
• Peak Experience 

• Rational, Analytical 
' Logic, Mental, Linear 
' Pursuit of Certainty 
•Technology dominates 
' Bigger is better. Expansion 
■ Independence 

• Hierarchy works best 
' Central Authority 

■ Planning, Control of future 
• Cause and Effect 

• Parts explain Whole 


■ Cooperation 
• Circulating, giving, 

' Caring, Quality of life (not quantity) 

• Being 
• Endurance-sustainabililty 

• Intuition, Empathy-Synthesis 

• Paradox. Physical-Emotional, Non-linear ' 
•Ability to hold ambivalence 1 

• Interpersonal Skills Dominate j 
• Small is Beautiful. Conservation! 

• Interdependence r 
• Egalitarian Works Best/ 
• Mutual Trustj^ 
■ Self-Organizing "Chaos", Faith in Futures 
• Synchronicity^ 
•Whole explains Parts (Holism)^ 

Fig. 1: Some Yin-Yang Coherences and Polarities 

This figure can be read vertically, emphasizing the internal coher- 
ences. Or it can be read horizontally, emphasizing the polarity be- 
tween them. One advantage in using the Yin-Yang vocabulary is that 
Taoists never separate such polarities. They emphasize the connec- 
tion between them - their complementarity - because, in truth, both 
are indispensable! 

The Yin and Yang ways of looking at reality are not competing 
ways of relating to and interpreting reality any more than your right 
eye "competes" with your left one. Instead, because of their differ- 
ences, they together provide you with a range and depth of vision, 
something which neither one can do by itself. 



For the past millennia, all patriarchal societies have tended to 
confer more legitimacy on the male half of human perception. We 
have thereby projected a hierarchical duality on concepts such as ac- 
tivity/passivity creativity /receptivity culture /nature, mind /senses, 
spirit/ matter, invariably claiming the former to be somehow "better" 
or more "accurate" than the latter. What matters here is not to deny 
the qualities inherent in the masculine viewpoint, but to elevate the 
feminine to an equal level. A shift in consciousness towards giving 
equal emphasis to both views is not just a matter of fairness; it may 
be the key to developing the kind of integrated, synergistic vision 
needed for the sustainability of our species. 

"The feminine and the masculine are not objects, not things, not 
simply biological bodies we are attempting to unite," writes Molly 
Dwyer, "hut rather complex, archetypal organizations of conscious- 
ness... What is needed is a recognition of the synergy between these 
polar opposites. Synergy is evident everywhere in nature, and is an 
important source of causation in the ongoing evolutionary process. 
Since the relationship between male and female is fundamentally 
synergistic, it is essential that we rethink and recreate our cultural 
and symbolic understanding of the feminine and its relationship to 
the masculine to increase the possibility that the human species will 
co-create an evolutionary change that is advantageous to the entire 
biosphere. If we do not, we are in danger of bringing about our own 
extinction... "[6] 

Not surprisingly, in all patriarchal societies a Yang bias is accepted 
as "normal." In contrast, the poet John Keats coined the term "nega- 
tive capability" for the often overlooked Yin trait of human personal- 
ity and experience: the capacity to hold uncertainty without angst 
- the capacity to live with the unknown as an ally rather than some- 
thing to be eliminated. It is more like a connection to an undifferenti- 
ated ground that resists form, which continually invokes questions 
and reflection and is potentially multidimensional, a space of "both- 
and" and neti-neti, the Hindu concept literally meaning "neither this, 
nor that." 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


In summary, natural ecosystems exist because they have both 
sufficient self-directed identity and flexibility to change. The polari- 
ties necessitate each other in an appropriate balance of harmonious 
complementarity. Over time, nature must have solved many of the 
structural problems in ecosystems. Otherwise, these ecosystems sim- 
ply wouldn't exist today. They are our best living examples of large- 
scale and long-term sustainabUity in action. 

Empirical Ecological Evidence 

A key insight from empirical studies of natural systems is that 
nature does not select for maximum efficiency, but for a balance be- 
tween the two opposing poles of efficiency and resilience. Because 
both are indispensable for long-term sustainability and health, the 
healthiest flow systems are those that are closest to an optimal bal- 
ance between these two opposing puUs. Conversely, an excess of ei- 
ther attribute leads to systemic instability. Too much efficiency (ex- 
cess Yang) leads to brittleness and too much resilience (excess Yin) 
leads to stagnation. The former is caused by too little diversity and 
connectivity, and the latter by too much diversity and connectivity. 
This dynamic is illustrated in Fig. 2. 

Sustainability Optimum 

100% ▲ 



Resilience (<1>) 
(Diversity + Interconnections) 


Efficiency (A) 

Fig. 2: The effects of diversity and connectivity in achieving efficiency and 



Sustainability of a complex flow system can therefore be defined 
as the optimal balance between efficiency and resilience in its network. With 
these distinctions we are now able to define and precisely quantify a 
complex system's sustainability in a single metric. 

In human designed systems, there may be a tendency to over-em- 
phasize efficiency and growth of volume at the expense of resilience 
- that is, to emphasize efficiency more than resilience. Resilience 
theory suggests that autocatalytic forces can jeopardize the sustain- 
ability of the whole network. In an economy, for example, the larger 
economic actors may use lobbying to obtain laws and rules that favor 
their growth at the expense of the smaller ones. In the financial do- 
main, banks may become "too big to fail" and thereby obtain implicit 
government guarantees that they wiU be bailed out in case of trouble. 

In such cases, sustainability is dramatically reduced because inter- 
connectivity collapses. In the monetary domain, similarly, as long as 
we remain stuck with the idea of a single national currency, the sys- 
tem is structurally configured to reduce diversity. Such a system will 
predictably collapse, and if it is forcibly restored to "normal," it will 
collapse again and again. When a bias favoring efficiency is pushed 
still further, the collapse of interconnectivity and sustainability grows 
worse, hastening the speed of a system's coUapse. 

Interestingly, there is an asymmetry in natural systems versus 
economic systems. In natural ecosystems optimality requires greater 
resilience than efficiency! In natural ecosystems the weight on effi- 
ciency has empirically been determined from a regression analysis us- 
ing actual data from a wide variety of ecosystems of different scales 
that the optimal point lies closer to resilience than efficiency. 

Moving beyond information theory, ecologists have measured the 
transfer of biomass and energy ("trophic exchanges") within ecosys- 
tems. They have also found ways to derive values for an ecosystem's 
throughput efficiency and resilience by estimating network size and 
network connectedness in terms of two structural variables: diver- 
sity and interconnectivity. It turns out that there is a specific zone of 
optimal robustness into which all observed natural ecosystems fall. 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


This zone has been named the "Window of Viability" (in ecological 
literature the "Window of Vitality"), as illustrated in Fig. 3. 

Resilience (<I>) Efficiency (A) 

(Diversity + Interconnections) (Streamlined) 

Fig. 3: The Window of Viability 

Application to Other Complex Flow Systems 

A reasonable question arises: Do the lessons we learn from eco- 
systems truly apply to other complex flow systems, such as economic 
or financial systems? It appears to be so. It is critical to understand 
that the findings described in natural ecosystems arise from the very 
structure of a complex flow system, and therefore that they remain 
valid for any complex flow network with a similar structure, regard- 
less of what is being processed in the system. It can be biomass in an 
ecosystem, information in a biological system, electrons in an electri- 
cal power network, or money in an economic system. This is pre- 
cisely one of the strong points of using a web-like network approach 
instead of machine-like metaphor. 

The fields of engineering, business and economics each focus al- 
most exclusively on efficiency, which means that we have rich oppor- 
tunities to empirically test whether the proposed metrics for complex 
flow systems would indeed improve sustainability. 

For example, electrical power grids had been systematically op- 
timized for decades towards ever-greater technical and economic ef- 
ficiency. It has come as a surprise to many engineers that, as they 



have approached higher efficiencies, suddenly large-scale blackouts 
have been breaking out with a vengeance "out of nowhere." A few 
decades ago several blackouts hit large areas of the United States and 
northern Germany. The data should be available to model these sys- 
tems as flow networks, because that is what they literally are. One 
could then quantify their efficiency and resilience, and plot their Win- 
dow of Viability. The solution on how to rebalance the power grid 
system to make it less brittle, and to determine its optimal sustain- 
ability would be an obvious "hard science" test application of the 
concepts and metrics described here. 

The point being made here is truly profound and has wide-reach- 
ing implications for all complex systems, natural or human-made. 
Placing too much emphasis on efficiency tends to automatically 
maximize flows, size and consolidation at the expense of choice, con- 
nectivity and resilience until the entire system becomes unstable and 
collapses. And yet conventional engineering, economics and finance 
invariably assume that more efficiency is always better! 

Until these findings about resilience and the Window of Viability, 
the only means for identifying the relative success of a system, wheth- 
er in nature or in economics, have been measures of total throughput 
and efficiency. For example, in ecosystems, as in economies, size is 
generally measured as the total volume of system throughput/ activ- 
ity. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the size of economies 
in this fashion and Total System Throughput (TST) does the same 
for ecosystems. Many economists urge endless growth in size (GDP) 
because they assume that growth in size is a "good enough" proxy 
metric for a system's health. 

GDP and TST, however, are both poor measures of sustainable 
viability because they ignore network structure. They cannot, for 
example, distinguish between a healthily thriving resilient economy 
and a bubble that is doomed to burst. Or between healthy "devel- 
opment," as Herman Daly describes it, [7] and explosive growth in 
monetary exchanges driven by runaway speculation. Now, however, 
we can distinguish whether a particular increase in throughput and 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


efficiency is a sign of healthy growth or just a relatively short-term 
bubble that is doomed to collapse. 

Application to Financial and Monetary Systems 

Applying the above complex flow framework specifically to fi- 
nancial and monetary systems, we can predict that an excessive focus 
on efficiency will tend to create exactly the kind of bubble economy 
that we have been able to observe repeatedly in every boom and bust 
cycle in history, including the biggest bust of them all, the one trig- 
gered in 2007-8 whose fallout we are still dealing with today. 

If we view economies as flow systems, the primary function of 
money as a medium of exchange can be seen as critical. Money is to 
the real economy as biomass is to an ecosystem - an essential vehicle 
for catalyzing processes, allocating resources, and generally allowing 
the exchange system to work as a synergetic whole. The connection 
to structure is immediately apparent. In economies, as in ecosystems 
and living organisms, the health of the whole depends heavily on the 
structure by which the catalyzing medium - in this case, money - 
circulates among businesses and individuals. Money must continue 
to circulate in sufficiency to all corners of the whole because poor 
circulation wiU strangle either the supply side or the demand side of 
the economy, or both. 

Our global monetary system is itself obviously a flow network 
structure, in which monopolistic national currencies flow within 
each country (or group of countries in the case of the Euro), and in- 
terconnect on a global level. The technical justification for enforcing 
a monopoly of a single currency within each country is to optimize 
the efficiency of price formation and exchanges in national markets. 
Strict regulations in every country maintain these monopolies. Bank- 
ing institutional regulations further ensure that banks tend to be car- 
bon copies of each other both in terms of their structure and behav- 
ior. The consequences of relying on a worldwide monoculture of big 
banks were demonstrated with the cataclysmic, simultaneous crash 
of 2008. 

In a seminal 1953 paper, Milton Friedman proposed letting mar- 
kets determine the value of each national currency as a way to fur- 



ther improve the overall efficiency of the global monetary system. 
[8] This idea was actually implemented by President Nixon in 1971 
to avoid a run on the dollar at that time. Since then, an extraordinari- 
ly efficient and sophisticated global communications infrastructure 
has been built to link and trade these national currencies. According 
to the Bank of International Settlements, the trading volume in the 
foreign exchange markets reached an impressive $5.3 trillion per day 
in 2013, to which trillions of currency derivatives should be added. 
Over 95 percent of that trading volume is speculative, and less than 
5 percent is in fact used for actual international trade of goods and 

Speculation can play a positive role in any market: theory and 
practice show that it can improve market efficiency by increasing li- 
quidity and depth in the market.* But current speculative levels are 
clearly out of balance. Although over half a century old, John May- 
nard Keynes' opinion has never been as appropriate as it is today: 
"Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enter- 
prise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble 
on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a 
country becomes a byproduct of the activities of a casino, the job is 
likely to be ill-done."[9] 

Nobody questions the efficiency of these huge markets; but their 
lack of resilience has been vividly demonstrated by the Asian crisis 
of the late 1990s and dozens of other monetary crashes. Our global 
network of monopolistic national moneys has evolved into an overly 
efficient and therefore dangerously brittle system. The system's lack 
of resilience shows up not in the technical field of the computer net- 
works (which all have backups), but in the financial realm. Such a 
crisis, particularly a combined monetary and banking crash, is - apart 
from war - the worst thing that can happen to a country. 

* "Liquidity" and "depth" in financial markets refer to the possibility of moving 
large volumes of money without significantly affecting prices. In a deep market, 
a lot of people are buying and selling. By contrast, in a thin market, because 
fewer people are trading, even one single large transaction could significantly 
affect prices. 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


Even more ironically, whenever a banking crisis unfolds, govern- 
ments invariably step in to help the larger banks to absorb the smaller 
ones, believing that the efficiency of the system is thereby further 
increased. This makes banks that are "too big to fail" into still bigger 
ones, until they become "too big to bail." 

As noted earlier, the substance that circulates in our global eco- 
nomic network - money - is maintained as a monopoly of a single 
type of currency: bank-debt money, created with interest. Imagine a 
planetary ecosystem where only one single type of plant or animal 
is tolerated and artificially maintained, and where any manifestation 
of successful diversity is eradicated as an inappropriate "competitor" 
because it would reduce the efficiency of the whole. It would clearly 
be unsustainable. 

An overly efficient system is "an accident waiting to happen," 
destined to suffer a sudden crash and collapse however many com- 
petent people dedicate time and heroic efforts to try to manage it. 
After a collapse, in both natural ecosystems and in monetary systems, 
however, the lessons of resilient systems are not learned. Political 
and market authorities seek to restore the preexisting structures and 
the same process resumes again. We have seen this after the com- 
plete meltdowns of the financial systems in Germany in the 1920s 
and again at the end of World War II; in the United States during 
the 'Tjank holidays" of the Great Depression; in Russia in the 1990s; 
and in Argentina in 1999-2002. All were simultaneous monetary and 
banking crises. In our time, a dollar or a Euro crisis could trigger a 
similar phenomenon. 

Fortunately, most crises are less extreme than that. However, go- 
ing through the exercise of exploring such a "pure" extreme gives 
some ideas of the power and depth of the dynamics involved. Less 
extreme crises manifest only some of the features of the process we 
have described. Just like a partial forest fire, one that doesn't reduce 
everything to ashes, these scenarios manifest only some of the attri- 
butes of a total burnout. 

The process of a collapse shows up graphically with a drop of 
sustainabiUty to close to 0 percent, as shown in Fig. 4. The next step 



after a total meltdown is an extreme fragmentation, without much 
collaboration. In a forest, this takes the form of seedlings of any type 
trying to sprout randomly. At the extreme, in a financial system, this 
takes the form of a return to primitive barter - i.e., survival exchanges 
without any standardization or organization. This stage can be seen 
as the case when each participant uses whatever he or she has as a 
commodity currency. 

The next step is the emergence of a multitude of "survival or- 
ganizations" that start to introduce some standards and some infor- 
mal agreements on dates and places where the exchanges may take 
place. In Argentina this took the form of the multiplication of local 
exchange mechanisms, under the names of ruedes de trueque in which 
locally issued creditos currencies were used as medium of exchange in 
weekly neighborhood markets. Assuming that the designs of these 
systems were sound (which unfortunately wasn't the case in Argen- 
tina), then the better systems would tend to emerge as models for 
others, and gradually more efficient exchange systems would evolve. 
Over time, a more diversified and more interconnected economy 
would rebuild, which would return the system back into the zone of 
the Window of Viability. This whole process is illustrated in Fig. 4. 

Sustainability | Optimum | 

Fig. 4: The Aftermath of a Total Meltdown in a Natural Ecosystem. After extreme 
fragmentation the species that are best adapted to the new environment slowly 
make the flow system climb hack toward the Window of Viability 

Extreme Fragmentation 

Survival Barter 


Resilience (<I>) 

(Diversity + Interconnections) 

Efficiency (A) 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


In modern monetary practice, this scenario does not occur, how- 
ever. What has invariably happened is that - thanks to orthodox mon- 
etary policies and bank lobbying - a monopoly of bank debt money 
is reestablished as the only legitimate medium of exchange. This took 
place for instance in Germany in the 1920s and in the US in the 1930s, 
when all the "emergency currencies" were outlawed; or in Argentina 
through a massive falsification of creditos paper currencies (see Fig. 5). 

Sustainability | Optimum | 

Fig. 5: No Window of Viability in a Monetary Monoculture. After a monetary or 
financial collapse, however, a monetary monoculture is reestablished as soon as 
possible, with the result that the return to a Window of Viability is not allowed 
to emerge. This guarantees that we continue repeatedly to go through this loop. 

We now know that such a monoculture is not a sustainable 
structure in the long run. Attempts to return to "normalcy" will in 
fact overshoot the window of sustainability again. The system will 
resume the next cycle of boom and bust by pushing for greater ef- 
ficiency within a monoculture environment, which seeds the next 
crash later. 

We have been going through this loop many times by now. Ac- 
cording to International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, since the 1970s 
there have been no less than 145 banking crises, 208 monetary crashes 
and 72 sovereign debt crises: a staggering total of 425 systemic crises, 
an average of more than ten countries per year![10] These crises have 

Extreme Fragmentation 

Survival Barter 

Resilience (O) 

(Diversity + Interconnections) 

1 00% i 


Efficiency (A) 



hit more than three-quarters of the 180 countries that are members 
of the IMF, many of them several times. 

How many more crises do we need before humanity is willing to 
learn that this is a systemic issue, and that only structural changes will 
avoid repeating the same patterns? (A full inventory of the options 
on how to deal with a systemic banking crisis has been explained in 
another paper, by Lietaer, Ulanowicz & Goerner.[l 1]) 

A Structural Monetary Solution 

Conventional economic thinking assumes the de facto monopo- 
lies of national currencies are an entirely natural phenomena. But 
the clear lesson from nature is that systemic monetary sustainabiUty 
requires a diversity of currency systems, so that multiple and more 
diverse agents and channels of monetary links and exchanges can 

It is important to realize that there are other ways to get back 
towards the Window of Viability; a total crash can be avoided. Solu- 
tions lie in letting complementary currency systems grow, or even en- 
courage the soundest of them to blossom, and gradually and gently 
push back the excesses of the monoculture. 

Conventional economists are correct when they claim that a di- 
versity of media of exchange is less efficient than a monopoly. How- 
ever, it has now been proven that complementary currencies facilitate 
transactions that otherwise wouldn't occur, linking otherwise unused 
resources to unmet needs, and encouraging diversity and intercon- 
nections that otherwise wouldn't exist. While this may result in a 
drop in efficiency, it is the necessary cost for increasing the resilience 
of the economic system. 

At the other extreme, some complementary currency enthusiasts 
claim that we should encourage very large numbers of complemen- 
tary currency systems, to the extent of letting everyone issue his or 
her own currency. At a certain point, of course, this scenario risks 
overshooting the Window of Viability in the other direction, produc- 
ing stagnation. 

It is very encouraging that at least one Central Bank has officially 
concluded that social currencies are not a threat to monetary policy. 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


but actxially contribute to the building of social capital and to the 
reduction of poverty.[12] Furthermore, we now also have empirical 
proof from 75 years of data from the WIR system in Switzerland that 
business-to-business complementary currencies tend to be counter- 
cyclical with the business cycle of conventional money: they actually 
help Central Banks in their task of stabilizing the national economy 
in terms of employment and in smoothing the swings in the business 
cycle. [13] In a period when unemployment, poverty and economic 
exclusion are all increasing in the developed world, it would be im- 
portant that Central Banks revisit this issue with a more open mind 
than has been the case so far. 

Policy Implications 

Ironically, our financial system has become so fragile because it 
has become too efficient. 

To achieve high efficiency, our modern monetary system has be- 
come too streamlined via a monoculture of a single type of money 
- a monoculture legally imposed in the name of market efificiency. 
Furthermore, governments enforce this monopoly by requiring that 
aU taxes be paid exclusively in this particular type of currency. 

We argue that making the monetary system sustainable will re- 
quire a new balance between efificiency and resilience in economics, 
in a way similar to what occurs naturally in ecosystems. Humanity 
has become, involuntarily and reluctantly, the steward of this planet's 
biosphere. Ultimately, we have no choice but to learn how to make 
our global civilization sustainable, or it will cease to exist. It may be 
useful to remember here that Albert Einstein defined insanity as do- 
ing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 

Next Steps? 

What then should governments do to implement the approach 
proposed here? It could start by accepting other types of currencies, 
besides conventional bank-debt national money, for the payment of 
fees and taxes. For instance, the province of Vorarlberg, Austria, or 
the city of Bristol, in the UK, are now accepting specific complemen- 



tary currencies in addition to conventional national money in pay- 
ment of local taxes. 

The triUion-doUar question facing us today is: How many more 
banking and monetary crashes do we have to live through before we 
have the humility to learn from complex natural systems? Could it 
be that governments may have to learn from the next crisis that they 
can't afford to save the banking system? 

Bernard Lietaer has studied and worked in the field of money and payment systems for 
more than 30 years in an unusually hroad range of capacities including Central Banker, 
fund manager, university professor, and a consultant to governments in numerous coun- 
tries, multinational corporations, and community organizations. He co-designed and 
implemented the ECU, the convergence mechanism to the single European currency sys- 
tem (the Euro); and served as president of the Electronic Payment System while at the 
Belgian Central Bank. He is Research Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Resources at 
the University of California at Berkeley, and Professor in the Erasmus Mundus program 
at the Sorhonne in Paris. Information about his work is available on 


[1] Rosl, Gerhard, "Regional Currencies in Germany: Local Competition for the 
Euro?" Discussion Paper, Series 1: Economic Studies, No. 43/2006 (Deutsche 
Bundesbank Eurosystem, 2006). Available for download at http: / / www.bundes- / download/ volkswirtschaft / dkp / 2006 / 200643dkp_en.pdf 

[2] Ulanowicz, Robert E., A Third Window: Natural Life Beyond Newton and Darwin. 
(West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2009). 

[3] Conrad, Michael, Adaptability: The Significance of Variability from Molecule to Eco- 
system. (New York, Plenum Press, 1983). 

[4] Odum, Eugene. P., Fundamentals of Ecology (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953). 

[5] Ulanowicz, Robert. E., Sally J. Goerner, Bernard Lietaer and Rocio Gomez, 
"Quantifying sustainability: Resilience, EflSciency and the Return of Informa- 
tion Theory" Ecological Complexity 6(1) (2009), pp. 27-36. 

[6] Molly Dwyer, "Complexity and the Emergent Feminine: A Cosmological In- 
quiry into the Role of the Feminine in the Evolution of the Universe" (Winning 
Paper of the 1999 Vickers Award International Society for the Systems Sciences, 
Asimolar, California). 

[7] Daly, Herman. E., Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. (Bos- 
ton, Beacon, 1997). 

[8] Friedman, Milton, "The Case for Flexible Exchange Rates," in Essays in Positive 
Economics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), pp. 157-203. 

Lietaer \ Complementary Currencies and Financial Stability 


[9] Keynes, John Maynard, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money 
(London: Macmillan, 1936), p. 159. 

[10] Caprio, Gerard Jr, and Daniela Klingebiel, "Bank Insolvencies: Cross Country 
Experience," Policy Research Working Papers No. 1620 (Washington, DC, 
World Bank, Policy and Research Department, 1996); and Laevan, Luc and Fa- 
bian Valencia, "Resolution of Banking Crises: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," 
IMF Working Paper 10/146 (Washington: International Monetary Fund, 2010). 

[11] Lietaer, Bernard, Robert E. Ulanowicz, and Sally J. Goerner, "Options for Man- 
aging a Systemic Bank Crisis," Sapiens, 2(1) (2009). Available online at http:/ / index747.html. 

[12] Freire Vasconcellos, Marusa, "Social Economy and Central Banks: Legal and 
Regulatory Issues on Social Currencies (social money) as a Public PoKcy Consis- 
tent with Monetary Policy," International Journal of Community Currency Research, 
(Vol 13, 2009), pp.76 -94. 

[13] Stodder, James, "Corporate Barter and Economic Stabilization," International 
Journal of Community Currency Research, 2 (1998); Stodder, James, "Reciprocal Ex- 
change Networks: Implications for Macroeconomic Stability," Conference Pro- 
ceedings, International Electronic and Electrical Engineering (IEEE), Engineer- 
ing Management Society (EMS) (Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2000). Available 
for download at http:/ / 
exchange_networks.pdf. An updated version (2005) is available at http: / / www.; and Stodder, James, "Complementary 
Credit Networks and Macroeconomic Stability: Switzerland's Wirtschaftsring," 
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 72, 79-95 (2009). Available for 
download at http:/ / 

Chapter 8 

Africa, Digital Identity and 
the Beginning of the End for Coins 

By Jonathan Ledgard 

Digital identity will be one of the most significant philosophical, po- 
litical and economic questions of the early 21st century. While this 
question will be a pressing one in richer countries, it wiU be abso- 
lutely vital in poorer ones where the state is often weak or absent and 
where mobile-accessed Internet will be the portal to new forms of 
education, health and banking. 

Picture the connectivity in poor countries a few years hence as 
seen on the battered screen of a cheap (but fast) smartphone. How do 
you make sense of yourself when you enter in? Do you have rights? 
Who is directing the choices you make inside there, who is record- 
ing them, who profits from your explorations? Are you trammeled 
again and again to the same domains? Are you even a citizen anymore 
when you are online? 

In Afi"ica, by 2020, 200 million young people wiU come online 
for the first time. They will do so through the battered screens men- 
tioned above, but also through new forms of tablets and wearable 
devices. These young Africans will be in a much stronger position 
to improve the quality of their lives if they are offered authentic and 
secure digital identities that allow them to control their own data and 
more easily move value among the various participants in peer-to- 
peer networks. 

The latest demographic predictions suggest that fertility in Africa 
is not slowing. The continent's population may now reach 2.7 billion 
before 2050 - up from 230 million in 1950. By the end of the century 
the PIN code for the planet wrU be 1 145: 1 biUion for the Americas, 1 

Ledgard \ Africa, Digital Identity & Coins 


billion for Europe, 4 billion for Africa and 5 billion for Asia. Because 
of a lack of indigenous tech companies and the prevalence of Eng- 
lish, French and Arabic as online languages, Africa will be a long-term 
play for big tech companies. 

But by buying up so much digital real estate in Africa so cheaply 
they wiU likely achieve monopolistic positions; at some point in the 
early 2020s African users will find that nearly all their online interac- 
tions will be dominated by just a few companies - including Google, 
Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, and rising Asian giants like Samsung 
and Huawei. Throughout Africa they will run the computing archi- 
tectures of user desktops, the civil service, stock exchanges and civil 
aviation. As smartphones and other sensors generate an explosion of 
data, African governments - erratic at best in the writing and imple- 
menting of laws governing data - are not likely to be at the forefront 
of security, privacy and consumer protections. By default, large tech 
companies will assume ever-more powerful positions versus the user 
- more powerful in many respects than governments themselves. 

Despite steady improvements in connectivity in Africa with the 
laying of undersea cables, the online experience is likely to be patchy 
and expensive relative to the rest of the planet. The virginal moment 
for young Africans will likely be with Facebook, which has subsidized 
data charges to ramp up usage in many African markets. Facebook 
says it wants to massively increase access to the Internet in Africa as a 
common good, but it undoubtedly also has an eye on the burgeoning 
demographics. Even so, Facebook will be much smaller than Google. 
The Mountain View giant has beneficent and ingenious schemes of 
its own in Africa, such as the Loon project to improve Internet con- 
nectivity from balloons drifting at high altitudes. Such initiatives by 
big tech companies to provide email, software, search, mapping and 
data storage at a massive scale are welcome indeed. 

It is in this context that the question of digital identity for young 
Africans becomes imperative. Where the state is weak and sometimes 
predatory, and where tech companies are overly dominant, it makes 
sense to push for a new trust layer that would retain data and build 
up a secure and authentic digital identity for every African who wants 



one. India's Aadhaar national identity scheme shows what is possible. 
It has already registered 500 million Indians using a number code and 
matching biometrics. Aadhar is improving service delivery but it is 
strengthening the state in a way that tempts overreach. 

Advances in distributed computing make it possible to think 
more audaciously in Africa. Instead of just tagging a citizen, why not 
gift them fuU digital sovereignty? Providing Africans with secure, reli- 
able digital identities will greatly empower them to take charge of 
their own commercial, political and social aff'airs, especially over and 
against the interests of corrupt governments and large corporations. 

An open source "white label" software built as standard into every 
smartphone, tablet and wearable device would allow Africans to ac- 
cess the power of the Internet on fairer terms. They could trade data 
for services, choose new providers that disrupt the big tech compa- 
nies, or hold onto their own data as an asset for microloans. Providing 
each user with a personal data store using the "trusted compute cell 
architecture" would make it harder for big tech companies to scrape 
private information for their own ends. (For more, see Chapter 13, 
"The ID3 Open Mustard Seed Platform," by Thomas Hardjono et al.) 

Such an offering would have to prove that it is robust enough to 
resist attack or theft of identity. The costs involved would be more 
difficult to handle. Who would pay for so many personal data stores? 
These are difficult but solvable problems. Costs are likely to fall as 
clean energy comes online and as Africa begins to benefit from cog- 
nitive computing and cables and other infrastructure improvements. 
For example, the architecture built to handle the enormous amounts 
of data that will be generated by the Square Kilometre Array radiote- 
lescopy project under construction in South Africa's Kalahari desert, 
will have many spinoff benefits. 

One of the first effects of user-controlled digital identity will be 
to alter the way value is moved around in Africa. Savings clubs are 
popular across Africa. Each month members pay into a pot, which is 
then reinvested. A digital identity solution may allow such clubs to 
negotiate collective deals much more effectively; in effect, to set up 
lucrative microeconomics. From there it is a short hop to launching 

Ledgard \ Africa, Digital Identity & Coins 


viable digital currencies. Even the best economic scenarios suggest 
that the average wage in Africa will not exceed US$6 a day by 2030. In 
our lifetimes the vast majority of transactions in Africa will therefore 
be very small, such as the expenditures of pennies to use a latrine in 
a slum. 

How are these transactions paid right now? Nearly always with 
coins and small denomination notes, and with no transaction records. 
Coins are a blunt instrument for carrying out these kind of tiny pay- 
ments: many are lost, many lose their value, they are expensive to 
keep in circulation, and, besides, are grubby with pathogens. 

A digital identity allows value to flow in new ways and therefore 
to enable all sorts of microtransactions. A digital identity as main- 
tained by smartphones could start to replace coins and small denomi- 
nation banknotes. As wearable technologies improve over the next 
decade it will become possible to imagine that many transactions will 
be consummated by gestures or by bursts of song; a bracelet raised, 
value imparted, precisely, with almost no transaction cost. 

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ripple have a headstart, but 
a pan-African digital currency could be index-based like Ven. In any 
case, a common African digital currency aimed at improving the val- 
ue of low-value transactions may perversely help regional integra- 
tion. Because of the peer-to-peer nature of the transactions it is pos- 
sible to imagine localized versions - one for every great African city, 
certainly, but perhaps one for women here, for farmers there, and for 
Catholics everywhere. The design of the currency should be memo- 
rable; I propose a pronking impala to match the iconic springbok on 
the kruggerand. 

An "Impala" revolution could provide a boost to Africa in a pe- 
riod of scarce jobs, expensive food and widespread destruction of 
nature. Mobile money schemes such as Kenya's M-Pesa have right- 
ly been praised, but they are better suited for paying school fees or 
church tithes than for paying for a ripe banana. They do not work 
hard enough for the user. 

By contrast, an Impala currency will set enforceable standards of 
performance and transparency. It could help users buUd credit histo- 



ries to secure microloans for schooling, healthcare and housing. Gov- 
ernments and aid agencies using their own versions of the currency 
will have verifiable means of disbursing value accurately, cheaply, and 
in daily increments that might protect beneficiaries who would oth- 
erwise be exploited. Indeed, just as some African governments are 
promising laptops and tablets, so they might consider subsidizing 
wearable devices that boost inclusivity. 

Since virtual transactions will happen mostly in the informal sec- 
tor, African governments will lose little by setting a tax-free ceiling of 
a few dollars a day for every user. Taxes could trigger as a levy in an 
automatic exchange into a national currency when holdings of "Im- 
pala" exceed an agreed ceiling. 

Jonathan Ledgard is Director, Future Africa, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Tech- 
nology, and Africa correspondent-at-large of The Economist. He has reported from 
}0 countries and several wars for The Economist, with a focus on politics, security, 
environment, and science, and has published two acclaimed novels, Giraflfe (2007) and 
Submergence (2013). 

Chapter 9 

Ven and the Nature of Money 

By Stan Stalnaker 

Money, by its very nature, is controversial. It goes hand in hand with 
power, and for centuries has been integral to the operative status of 
the nation-state system. It can be used to control and to guide, to 
redeem and to oppress: like any tool in the hands of humans. At its 
essence, money is a ledger, a system used by society to keep score of 
who and what and when and where. Money is our way of recording 
distributed memory. 

The evolution of money is therefore very important, and as tech- 
nology affects this part of the human experience as it has so many 
others, the principles and standards by which we blend technology 
and money together will have far-reaching consequences. 

Hub Culture is a social network that has been exploring the con- 
vergence of technology and money for more than a decade. This 
very international community grew from a book of the same name, 
published in 2002. As a community its hallmarks are similar to oth- 
ers - collections of people with individual interests finding common 
ground in philosophy and experience. The community came before 
the currency and remains the anchor and the glue for the existence of 
Ven, its raison d'etre. The Hub Culture community, global in geogra- 
phy but singular in concept, discovered that the constraints of physi- 
cal money - fiat currency - has distinct limitations for internationally 
minded people in meeting local needs, and from this constraint Ven 
was born. Today, the currency represents an innovative step forward 
in finance that combines technological excellence with community 
values: environmental respect, community responsibility, and self- 
sovereignty with distributed, selective privacy. 



As the first widely used digital currency and now an Internet 
Reserve Currency, Yen's history is one of constant evolution. It first 
appeared in July 2007 as an application on Facebook. It had no real ex- 
change rate and was traded as a type of digital karma between mem- 
bers. No one knew what it was worth, which made trade arbitrary 
and unwieldy. This lack of clear value did not last long, however. An 
exchange rate of 10 to 1 was created, linking Ven to the US DoUar. 
With a set value, Ven were first used inside Hub Culture stores - Hub 
Pavilions - worldwide, and could be traded among members on a 
global basis for free. 

To mitigate exchange rate risks, the currency was diversified in 
2009 to enable exchange with a basket of currencies, making it highly 
stable. The decision was also taken to back issuance of Ven 100% 
with assets, in accordance with the algorithmic index that formulated 
the Ven. Soon this basket of assets included commodities like gold 
and silver, and later, carbon, making Ven the first environmentally 
linked currency in the world. 

With its stable, diversified backing and conservative structure, 
Ven suddenly showed promise as a global currency. But it was the in- 
troduction of carbon to the underlying basket of assets that gave Ven 
a "social DNA," embedding environmental support in every transac- 
tion as a derivative benefit. The more Ven circulating in the world, 
the more carbon purchased for asset reserves, and the more trees and 
habitats protected. 

Today over 25,000 acres of Amazon rainforest have been put un- 
der protection, and Ven is developing funding protection programs 
in places as diverse as Costa Rica, Alaska and eastern Africa. There 
are multiple community benefits from this protection work - new 
wildlife corridors, natural preservation, fuel switching from charcoal 
to clean energy, and an increased quality of life for citizens of a very 
stressed planet. 

Ven is rapidly scaling into the global financial system, becoming 
the first digital currency used for commodity trades, the first traded 
in regulated foreign exchange markets, and the first to enter bond 
markets and national bourses. It is the most stable currency in the 

Stalnaker | Ven and the Nature of Money 


world, roughly 50% less volatile than traditional fiat currencies. With 
no leverage and no interest, it fulfills some important aspects of Is- 
lamic finance. These attributes make Ven a yawn for speculators and 
cowboys, but a boon for producers and common people. 

Ven is issued and regulated by Hub Culture and the Ven Central 
Reserve Board, a group of financial experts from within the com- 
munity tasked with protecting the integrity of Ven. Ven and Hub 
Culture are protected in a legal Trust with the sole task of protect- 
ing the technological assets and intellectual property that governs the 
community. "Digital" means that the currency does not have physical 
representation and its distribution, flow and exchange are recorded 
on the Internet. The Ven Central Authority oversees policies govern- 
ing Ven. 

This is a markedly different strategy than the hundreds of de- 
centralized cryptocurrencies that place their faith in a fixed supply 
of their currencies and reject central authorities to manage them. 
While decentralized currencies have their merit, the human role in 
managing Ven is designed to allow flexibility to deal with changing 

Governing rules regarding Ven provide simple fixed conditions: a 
social contract with users to assure a strict correspondence between 
Ven in circulation and asset reserves, and built-in support for the envi- 
ronment, to promote stability, reliability and security. Together these 
attributes support the Four Core Attributes of Ven: stability, globality 
security and support for nature. 

Ven Authorities 

In order to make Ven more accessible. Hub Culture authorizes 
independent entities known as 'Authorities" to manage the liquidity 
of Ven. Organizations may acquire this status for various purposes. 
For example, a bank would typically operate accounts on behalf of 
their customers. A currency exchange would be doing real-time cur- 
rency trading. An NGO might issue relief aid or microfinance sup- 
port. A corporation might convert assets to Ven to hedge their bal- 
ance sheet or to meet carbon obligations. An investment fund might 



use authority status to hold and control large amount of Ven for a 
stable long-term investment solution. 

Regular users and merchants who have only one account and do 
not use large volumes of Ven do not need Authority status. Author- 
ity status comes with a legal responsibility to make sure that all Ven 
activities are legal and ethical. Through those principles Hub Culture 
ensures Ven availability to anyone through any means while remain- 
ing a legal, stable, 100% backed asset acknowledged and respected 

Ven Issuance 

Ven is held in the Glacier, an offline "cold" cryptovault. When 
purchased, Ven "melts" from the Glacier into circulation, and the 
corresponding purchase value in fiat currency is held in reserves al- 
located to the underlying basis components of Ven. Ven is a currency 
backed by a collection of other currencies, commodities and carbon 
credits. Technically this means for every Ven in a member account 
there are corresponding frozen assets held in reserve. This ensures 
the stability of Ven prices but also means that all Ven must be ac- 
counted for and backed in the Central Ven Reserve. 

Ven is distributed through Authorities. If you access an Authority 
to buy Ven for $100, this amount is broken down and invested into 
dollars, euros, pounds, yen, yuan and many other currencies, com- 
modities and carbon credits. When you sell Ven the underlying assets 
are released. This process is called Reserve Balancing. The process is 
managed through a series of sophisticated hedging algorithms that 
balance the underlying reserves and issuance in real time with live 
financial markets data, updating as frequently as several times per 

Ven Pricing API 

Ven pricing is updated in real-time and slightly fluctuates depend- 
ing on underlying performance. Hub Culture makes Ven prices pub- 
licly available to anyone through an API, however this free public API 
is updated only once per hour. As an Authority, entities have access to 
high-frequency pricing which offers real-time pricing with precision 

Stalnaker | Ven and the Nature of Money 


of more than 0.1 second, to ensure that Authorities have a very accu- 
rate pricing before during and after purchase or sale. VEN purchase/ 
sales orders can also be distributed through FIX protocol, which is 
popular among financial institutions worldwide. 

Ven Authentication and HubID 

As Ven moves into the financial markets and becomes more us- 
able for purchases and transactions, the need to authenticate iden- 
tity to avoid money laundering and other fraud risks becomes para- 
mount. Since Ven issuance and exchange comes from a central point, 
and since it grew from the social network, an intrinsic layer of iden- 
tity already exists with transactions. 

However, the data sets generated by a centralized digital ledger 
imply unique challenges of their own because Ven users and Hub 
Culture certainly do not want transactional and personal data rou- 
tinely made available to third parties. Uniquely among all social net- 
works and most advertising-oriented social media. Hub Culture does 
not scrape, aggregate or sell member data to monetize it. In fact, not 
a single piece of user data has ever been sold to a third party - Hub 
Culture explicitly grants users unique ownership of their data within 
Hub Culture, their transaction data, and the Ven in their account. 
This can be done in theory with the data in the archives and in prac- 
tice by passing ownership of decisions regarding the use of data to 
each member directly. 

Such a system could not be practical or sustainable unless digital 
currency accounts are linked to profiles and costs are covered in other 
novel ways. For example. Hub Culture pioneered the concept of in- 
dividual payments for content generated inside the network, through 
news and video posted by members - an opportunity made possible 
by individual data ownership. There are also "collaboration hubs" 
linked to private Ven accounts and even knowledge brokerage and 
retail opportunities - all of which feature margins. 

In 2013, Hub Culture and M.I.T Media Lab partnered with ID3 
to take this idea to a radical next step: ensuring digital "self-sover- 
eignty" with user data through the creation of HubID, a secure vault 
wrapped in elliptical curve cryptography and the Open Mustard Seed 



open source technology platform. Through this innovative blend 
of technologies, online users not only have a "Personal Data Store" 
(PDS) to put their personal data in perpetuity they receive a unique 
piece of online real estate through a private "virtual machine" dedi- 
cated to hosting just their data. While Hub Culture currently covers 
the cost of that privilege, the growth of Ven redemption and usage 
will eventually overtake the costs of this service, enabling members 
to decide how and when data in their vault is used. 

Data in the vault is segmented into a series of tabs, each of which 
are designated a unique hex color on the Web. These tabs combine 
to form the Hub ID, a digital badge that manifests these verified com- 
ponents with the member's profile image. Together, these elements 
form a unique Aura, which can be accessed by others who desire to 
authenticate a user transaction with Ven. The final result is a digi- 
tal identity and transaction capability owned by the individual and 
uniquely verified. At the core of this technology is voice biometric 
technology developed with VaHdsoft, a leading mobile security firm, 
to provide near-perfect uniqueness in digital identity for highly secure 
access and transaction approvals. 

Together, HubID and Ven seek to provide a completely intelli- 
gent, self-sovereign Web experience. The technology works with all 
other systems, granting a unique API for identity to each user, which 
can be adapted and used only with the member's approval. At their 
discretion, users often pay for, or receive payment for, access privi- 
leges in Ven. 

This technology is the basis for Voin, an intelligent data coin now 
in development by Hub Culture. Voin is the world's first intelligent 
coin, and can slip into a pocket, hang from a chain around the neck, 
or rest on a lapel. With fingerprint and voice biometric technology it 
is highly secure, but also easy to use: the owner simply speaks a value 
into Voin and matches a voiceprint for access to make a transaction. 
As both a transaction wallet and an ID, Voin represents a completely 
new approach to money and the application of closed loop device 

Stalnaker | Ven and the Nature of Money 


At Hub Cultxire, the belief is that an increasingly connected world 
should provide greater data transparency and equality. It should also 
be more secure, with individual privacy and personal data control 
included as an indelible human right. The general drift of businesses 
in the Internet age has been toward winner-take-aU scenarios and the 
total, one-way vacuum suck of data aggregation. This is having dra- 
matic (negative) consequences in a sector as important as ubiquitous 
value exchange because information and value are merging at the 
same time that chokepoints in the system are narrowing. If individu- 
als are not given control and ownership of this data now, they risk 
losing it forever. 

Technological innovations are giving the world a rich opportuni- 
ty to rethink the values around the economy without having to com- 
promise on the practical, hard-nosed financial realities of commerce. 
A properly managed nonfiat digital currency has some inherent ad- 
vantages over a state-based currency: it can function at one degree 
of separation from the state, and without the baggage of obligations 
that states must shoulder, such as the need to provide defense, fund 
social services and build and repair public works. While limitations 
around taxation and use of force mean that digital currencies will 
never fuUy replace fiat currencies, their advantages do not absolve 
them from adhering to some form of social contract with their users. 

The nature of money is to reflect and strengthen the values of 
the community in which it operates. If a currency does not do this, it 
fails in the most important test of its moral existence, and over time 
can never reach fuU potential. Digital currencies like Ven provide 
great technological efficiencies, ease of use, stability and more, but 
Yen's most important attribute is its philosophy that humans should 
play a defining role in monetary policy and that including externali- 
ties in the DNA of currency can radically improve the welfare of the 
communities that use it. After all, isn't that what money is for? 

Stan Stalnaker is Founding Director, Hub Culture and Ven Currency and Communica- 
tions Chair for the Digital Asset Transfer Authority, the industry's self-regulatory or- 
ganization. A leading commentator on the social impact of globalization, emergence 
of digital asset classes, P2P economies and of course digital currency, he is putting his 
undergraduate economics and international development degrees to more use than he or 
his professors ever thought possible. 

Chapter 10 

Green Coins: Using Digital Currency 
to Build the New Power Platform 

By Reed E. Hundt, ]effrey Schuh and Joseph R. Schottenfeld 

The software breakthroughs that have made possible Bitcoin - the 
new cryptocurrency, regardless of how the IRS chooses to treat it - 
also can be used for almost any widespread and equitable sharing of 
a scarce resource. That's why the authors, working through a non- 
profit called the Coalition for Green Capital[l] are exploring ways to 
link the new software capabilities with distributed solar power. We 
hope that building owners wiU not only put solar panels on their own 
roofs to self-provide power, but also will share that power with each 
other, using the software behind Bitcoin to enable fair payments to 
each rooftop power generator. 

Today, rooftop solar accounts for an extremely small proportion 
of total electricity generation. In 2012, for instance, distributed solar 
generation made up only 0.2 percent of total retail sales of electric- 
ity in the United States.[2] But, the federal and state governments 
provide very large subsidies for solar power. Federal incentives may 
be worth more than 55 percent of the total cost, and state level incen- 
tives can be worth another 25 percent, meaning the system owner 
may have to shoulder only 20 percent of the actual cost of solar.[3] 
Here follows an example of the simplest structure of a rooftop solar 

The sun indubitably can provide all the energy needed by the 
global economy.[4] Technologists have been rapidly advancing the ca- 
pability to convert the sun's rays into electricity, and efficiency gains 
have been accelerating. Furthermore, due to rising supply, especially 
out of China, panel costs have been dropping very rapidly. Moreover, 

Hundt, Schuh ir Schottenfeld \ Green Coins 





Panels Worth 
minus profit 





(System Owner) 
Electricity Pnce= 

Fig. 1: Typical Cash Purchase for Solar 

rooftops beckon for panels - there is no important competing use for 
the space; installation is easy; and the business creates jobs for which 
skills are abundant and underutilized. Last year, solar power created 
jobs in nearly every state. [5] 

Scaling distributed solar faces two distinct problems. First, in- 
stallers and government currently treat distributed solar as a benefit 
solely for the owner of a particular rooftop. There is little or no com- 
munity or group-based demand for solar power. Second, by thinking 
of rooftop solar as a power source for the specific underlying home 
and not as a communitywide resource, homeowners and installers 
are not maximizing the amount of panels and power generation that 
could be obtained from a given home's roof. 

To solve these two problems, we are looking for creative ways to 
encourage widely distributed rooftop owners to install solar panels 
and supply solar power both to each other and to other users. They 
must use the electric grid to connect, of course, but if the group is 
big enough, it can muster the resources to negotiate a low transmis- 
sion price from the grid owner. These individuals would need a way 
to connect - preferably with the option to maintain their anonymity 
- and their connections would need to allow for constant updating of 
the account of each rooftop owner. As additional rooftops are added 
to the group, the capability of the whole system would increase by 



more than the marginal increments of power added by each new so- 
lar provider. A larger number of scattered users creates a smoother, 
more continuous pattern of power generation. It also provides a 
greater capacity to offset the variable bursts of consumption and dips 
in production by each individual rooftop owner. 

With these dynamics in mind, we are exploring how the intro- 
duction and adaptation of a block chain, the decentralized ledger 
that tracks and certifies all transactions of Bitcoin, and a solar cryp- 
tocurrency might be used by a community of solar rooftop owners. 
A decentralized, disaggregated ledger-powered currency could be 
converted to renewable energy credits and other government-driven 
subsidies. It could even serve as a medium of exchange within solar 
microgrids or networks, and the network effects created by a robust 
ecosystem of green currency could organically drive adoption. 

Solar ledgers could help assure participants that their electric- 
ity use and generation can both remain anonymous. The protocols 
behind a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin would allow for transactions 
between users, but not require actual identification of any rooftop 
owner. Moreover, the absence or near absence of transaction costs 
and the speed of processing would permit the constant flow of trans- 
actions that a network of solar users would need to operate success- 

Since the introduction of Bitcoin in 2008 by a pseudonymous 
programmer named Satoshi Nakomoto, cryptocurrencies and "block 
chains" have provoked significant controversy. Cyberlibertarians 
praise cryptocurrencies as the end of centralized banking; small busi- 
ness owners look forward to a future when cryptocurrencies wiU al- 
low them to bypass bank processing fees; law enforcement fears that 
drug traffickers will use bitcoins to transact drug deals on black mar- 
ket websites such as the Silk Road. Last month, news that Mt. Gox, 
the largest Bitcoin exchange house, had lost nearly US$500 million 
worth of bitcoins promptly caused the currency's value to halve. [6] 
Driven by speculation, bitcoins' value is volatile, even in the absence 
of Mt. Gox-Hke shocks. With good reason, many wonder about the 
real worth of fiat-less cryptocurrencies or coins generated by code 

Hundt, Schuh ir Schottenfeld \ Green Coins 


and "mined" by using computing power to make increasingly com- 
plex proof-of-work calculations. (This is especially disturbing because 
the amount of electricity and computing power now needed to mine 
bitcoins has an enormous carbon footprint. [7]) 

Nevertheless the promise of a distributed ledger and cryptocur- 
rency is very great for distributed solar generation. The ability for one 
individual, group or entity to transfer funds directly to another, with 
the community (the miners) digitally verifying the transaction in the 
place of a third party (generally a bank) has nearly limitless potential. 
[8] Positive uses of block chains enabling currencies or commodities 
are already proliferating. Donors used dogecoin, originally viewed as 
a meme -based spoof of Bitcoin, to fund the Jamaican bobsled team's 
appearance at the Sochi Winter Olympics. More recently, an anony- 
mous user moved more than US$10,000 worth of dogecoins through 
Twitter - the largest donation ever made by tweet - to fund clean 
water projects. [9] Developers and programmers are creating entirely 
new cryptocurrendes aimed at providing social benefits: Gridcoin, 
for example, rewards miners for donating computing power to the 
Berkeley Open Infrastructure Network Computing Grid, which em- 
ploys a global, decentralized network of computers to conduct scien- 
tific computing.[10] 

SolarCoin has begun to explore how the concept of a crypto- 
currency could be adapted to incentivize solar. Introduced in Feb- 
ruary 2014 by a group of volunteers associated with The SolarCoin 
Foundation, SolarCoin promotes solar adoption by creating an added 
motivation to produce solar power: in addition to renewable energy 
credits and other government subsidies that individuals already re- 
ceive, solar producers would receive one SolarCoin for every mega- 
watt hour (MWh) of energy produced.[ll] 

Unlike Bitcoin, SolarCoins are not, strictly speaking, fiat-less. 
Their value derives from the generation of solar power, which has 
some demonstrable economic value. Rather than only using comput- 
ing power to demonstrate proof-of-work solutions and thereby mint 
new coins ("mining"), users can also earn new coins by producing 
more solar power. The more power produced, the greater the quan- 



tity of SolarCoin introduced into circulation. The open source code 
promises an equitable distribution between coins rewarded for cryp- 
tographic mining and coins earned through verified metered read- 
ings of solar electricity generation. 

Of course, the coins have no intrinsic value. For now, earning a 
SolarCoin equates to little more than receiving a certificate of appre- 
ciation - a valueless acknowledgment. Over time, the coin's founders 
hope that a community of interest will help create economic value 
for the coins: foundations and concerned parties could donate value 
as a means of rewarding others for purchasing solar panels and pro- 
ducing solar energy. Added value may derive from green businesses 
or solar-dependent businesses doing the same - out of altruism or 
to lower solar energy costs and increase their own margins. In the 
future, should the digital coins gain real monetary value, other ven- 
dors could pledge to accept the coins to boost their perceived social 
value. [12] 

But there are other ways that a new solar cryptocurrency sup- 
ported by a block chain could gain value and drive solar. By aggres- 
sively recruiting vendors to accept the currency or trade in it - rather 
than waiting for vendors to sign on - SolarCoin or a different solar 
cryptocurrency could gain value from its usability, such as the use 
of block chains in transactions between solar users. The block chain 
itself could become a kind of "fiber" connecting solar producers who 
want to be able to bargain directly with the grid or, over time, trade or 
move energy within the network of solar providers. Perhaps best of 
aU, in a time of extreme data hunger, solar producers could do much 
of this while remaining pseudonymous for as long as they wish. 

It will be a while before SolarCoin or something similar gains 
such widespread acceptance that people would consider using the 
currency to trade for energy credits or subsidies (or that the govern- 
ment would permit this to happen). A reasonable question to ask is 
why we are discussing our plans in this publication. The answer is 
that we are inviting collaboration. We want to figure out how to get 
there, and in the classic open source tradition, we believe that at least 
some of the readers of this volume will have crucial ideas and con- 

Hundt, Schuh ir Schottenfeld \ Green Coins 


nections to help us reap the full potential of this vision. We can be 
contacted by emailing Jeffrey Schub at jefif@coalitionforgreencapital. 

Reed E. Hundt is the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, a nonprofit organization 
headquartered in Washington, D.C., that works to establish green hanks at the state, 
federal and international levels. He is also the Principal of REH Advisers, a business ad- 
visory firm. He was Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 1993 
to 1997. He sits on various corporate and nonprofit boards including Intel Corporation, 
and the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority. 

Jeffrey Schub is Vice President of the Coalition for Green Capital. 

Joseph R. Schottenfeld is a research associate at REH Advisors and the Coalition for 
Green Capital. 


[1] http: / / 

[2] "Bernstein Commodities & Power: The Empire Strikes Back: How the U.S. Dis- 
tributed Solar Revolution Could Be Nipped in the Bud," Bernstein Researc/i, Janu- 
ary 3, 2014. 

[3] See http: / / solar. 

[4] Tom Murphy, "Solar Data Treasure Trove," August 7, 2012, http: / / physics.ucsd. 
edu/ do-the-math/ 2012/ 08 /solar-data-treasure-trove/ #more-l 159. 

[5] Katie Valentine, "90 Percent of States Added Solar Jobs in 2013, Fueled By 
Growth In the South," Thinkprogress, February 11, 2014, at http: / / thinkprogress. 
org/climate/2014/02/ 11 /3279221 /states-solar-jobs-2013. 

[6] Rachel Abrams, Matthew Goldstein, and Hiroko Tabuchi, "Erosion of Faith 
Was Death KneU for Mt. Gox," The New York Times, February 28, 2014, available 
at http: / / 2014/02/28/mt-gox-files-for-bankruptcy/?_ 
php= true&_type =blogs&_r= 0 . 

[7] Michael Carney, "Bitcoin Has a Dark Side: Its Carbon Footprint," Panda Daily, 
December 16, 2013, 

[8] Tom Simonite, "What Bitcoin Is, and Why It Matters," M.I.T. Technology Review, 
May 25, 20 1 1 , http: / / news /42409 1 / what-bitcoin- 
is-and- why-it-matters. 

[9] Rob Wile, 'Anonymous Redditor Makes Massive $11,000 Dogecoin Donation 
on Twitter," Business Insider, March 17, 2014, http:/ /www. businessinsider. 
com/ 1 lOOO-dogecoin-for-world-water-day-2014-3. 

[10] See: http: / / 


[11] See: http:/ / 

[12] Lauren C. Williams, "Could A Solar-Powered Currency Be The Next Bit- 
coin?" Thinkprogress, February 21, 2014, 
mate / 2014/02/21/3282131/ solar-coin-global-currency 

Part III 


Chapter II 

Organic Governance Through 
the Logic of Holonic Systems 

By Mihaela Ulieru 

The biggest challenge mankind faces today is not the development of 
more breakthrough technology; it is to create a society whose institu- 
tions integrate the knowledge that must precede any such technol- 
ogy, including knowledge about these institutions themselves. The 
inherent problem stems from our limited capacity to comprehend 
the interplay of large crowds of people and to transcend our own 
individual psychology rooted in interactions with groups of tens to 
hundreds, not billions. [1] 

There is no doubt that our world has evolved to be complex, a 
phenomenon that reflects the ultimate manifestation of self-orga- 
nized structure embedded in the physics of everything as archetypes 
of naturally emerging design. [2] This tendency occurs because all 
of nature is not comprised of physical objects as such but rather as 
a complex of flow particles merging into systems that change and 
evolve their configurations over time. The interrelationships that 
govern flows tend to create greater access to the circulating forces, 
which in turn propels new complexity. Anybody who has participated 
in the phenomenon of viral social media understands this intuitively 
- namely, that there are characteristic ways that flows change their 
configuration over time to increase their flows more. Social systems 
adapt to demands that enhance or obstruct these natural flows, much 
as natural systems do, through gradual modification and selection. 

So, in the quest to design institutions and organizations that can 
perform more flexibly and effectively, we need to focus on how to 
enhance creative flows via structures that aiford higher degrees of 



freedom. For this, we find plenty of inspiration and guidance in na- 
ture and the Universe. 

To overcome the significant challenge in learning how to orga- 
nize our daily life together in groups whose interactions are larger 
and more complex than we can intuit, we have to design rtales of con- 
duct and incentives that align our individual actions with collective 
interests so that both converge and yield synergies. Over a long enough 
timeframe, manmade designs can emerge and behave like natural flow sys- 
tems. But the puzzling thing for us as humans in the modern world is the 
persistence of bad designs, of intractable configurations limiting freedoms 
that could improve flow. The rigid structure of our social, political and 
economic systems tends to thwart adaptation and agile responses to 
unexpected and emerging needs. Our macro-institutions often block 
effective, necessary solutions. 

A recurrent problem is our failure to understand that human en- 
deavors are part of holistic, living systems, natural and constructed, 
whose constitutive elements are mutually defining, expressive and 
constantly evolving. In actual circumstances, the individual cannot 
be cast as against, below or above the group; the individual is in fact 
nested within dynamic forms of social organization. Living organisms 
have subjectivities, intersubjectivities and behaviors that are nested 
within larger living systems. The dynamic complexities rapidly multi- 
ply, outpacing simple cause-and-effect logic and crude narratives. 

Holonics is an empirically based theory of living systems that 
seeks to overcome these limitations. By blending multiple scientific 
and humanistic disciplines, holonics seeks to understand the rules 
and laws of self-organizing systems and, in so doing, point to the 
ways by which we might change the cultures in our organizations 
and transform how we live and work. But this challenge requires that 
we consider a radical shift in the ways in which we interact with (and 
within) our socio-poHtico-economic systems, as well as with the natu- 
ral environment. 

Holonics: Healthy Hierarchies 

At its broadest scope, holonics is concerned with the evolution 
of the universe. [3] The basic idea is that every living entity is both 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


an autonomous whole unto itself as well as part of a larger holistic 
system. This perspective enables us to see certain recurring patterns 
of self-organization among interdependent natural systems at many 
different scales, from atomic levels to earthly physics, biology and ul- 
timately to the Universe. 

In the 1960s the writer Arthur Koestler postulated that many bio- 
logical and social organizations simultaneously display part /whole 
relationships. In other words, every entity is self-contained while 
concurrently existing as an individual member of a larger collective. 
Koestler proposed the term holon to describe the elements of these 
systems. This term is a combination of the Greek word holos, mean- 
ing "whole," with the suffix on meaning "part," as in proton or neu- 
ron. The term is meant to reflect the tendencies of holons to act as 
autonomous entities that also cooperate to form nested hierarchies 
of subsystems. The classic example is the nested hierarchy in biology 
of the cell, tissue, organ and system /organism. In this holarchy as 
Koestler called it, each holon is a subsystem retaining the character- 
istic attributes of the whole system (Fig. la). What actually defines 
a holarchy is a purpose around which holons are clustered and sub- 
divided in subholons, at several levels of resolution. Each entity (or 
holon) must act autonomously and cooperatively to achieve the goals 
of itself and of the wider system. 

rules for external behaviors 
' I ^ 

' 1 ^ 

^ ^ Subordination to whole ^ ^ 


internal structure & rules Holarchy as a nested hierarchy 




□□□□□□□□□ □□□□□□□□□ 

Fig. Ih: Rigid (pathological) hierarchy 

Holonics, then, is an organizational paradigm inspired by the self- 
organizing properties of natural systems. Holonics scales systems in 
nested clusters - as shown in Fig. la - whose collaborative rules drive 
them towards a common purpose. For example, a confederation is apo- 
litical holarchy in which - at the highest level of resolution - the coun- 
try and its governance rules (the federal government) are concerned 
with international politics and federal regulations. At the immediate 
lower level, there are provinces with their own set of governance 
rules that are concerned with things more appropriate to their scale, 
such as education and health matters. Finally at the "lowest" level in a 
nested hierarchy of confederation, there are cities with their munici- 
pal governance rules for such needs as snow removal and firefighting. 
Each citizen is an "individual agent" ("primitive" or 'Tjasic" holon) 
within this social holarchy. 

Holarchies can take many forms. [4] For example, a university is 
organized as an educational holarchy comprised of the President's of- 
fice, to which faculties (e.g., engineering, science, medicine, etc.) are 
directly subordinate to a dean's leadership; and each faculty in various 
departments (e.g., electrical engineering, manufacturing engineer- 
ing, civil engineering, etc.) is subordinated in turn to the leadership 
of a department head. Each academic lecturer and each student is a 
primitive holon. An enterprise is a purpose-driven /market-driven hol- 
archy. A manufacturing system is a production-driven holarchy. A liv- 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


ing organism is a survival-driven holarchy. The Universe itself can be 
seen as an evolution-driven nested hierarchy, a holarchy. Hierarchies 
are ubiquitous in nature and social organization. But there are prob- 
lematic hierarchies that we can designate as "pathological hierar- 
chies." These are rigid, top-down, "tree-like" hierarchies (Fig. lb), 
rather than holonic, nested hierarchies akin to nested Russian doUs 
(Fig. la). In pathological hierarchies, a "higher level top agent" (e.g., 
a university president or a manager of an organization) assumes the 
role of the whole and treats subsidiary systems as simple parts. Such 
higher level agents may use a coercive authority to micromanage the 
"lower" holons by issuing top-down instructions for each step of a 
process. This kind of pathological hierarchy can not only stifle hu- 
man dignity, it can block the natural generative flows through which 
human creative potential manifests itself 

Unfortunately, such pathologies pervade our current entropic in- 
dustrial order, in part because they rely upon reductive categories of 
thought and centralized forms of control that cannot flexibly align 
individual and collective interests. In a holonic system, by contrast, 
the autonomy of nested systems (at "lower levels") is recognized by 
allowing them to self-organize their own appropriate rules. Coopera- 
tion among interdependent parts in a holarchy (Fig. la) produces far 
more stable and effective results than traditional hierarchies (Fig. lb) 
in which people are assigned rigid, constrained roles that underutUize 
their capacities. [5] 

As this analysis suggests, it is important that we grasp the dynam- 
ics of holonic systems if we are going to change the pathologies of 
top-down approaches to organizational governance. It is possible to 
design agile systems that empower individuals to use their fuU capaci- 
ties, but that wiU require a more holistic perspective of the interrela- 
tionships of holons and the flows that are enhanced (or blocked) by 
the respective individual-group dynamics. 

The Logic of Holonic Systems: 
Embracing the Individual and the Collective 

The greatest challenge facing any holonic system is "the whole 
in the part" dichotomy, which can be understood as a set of built-in. 



contradictory tensions. Individual systems (wholes) holons are ani- 
mated to be autonomous and separate - yet they are also constrained 
as parts of the holarchy to work cooperatively with other holons 
towards the common goal around which the holarchy was formed. 
This duality of contradictory forces within a holarchy - between au- 
tonomy and cooperation - is reconciled and balanced via "holonic 
design rules" that define the functionality of systems of semi-auton- 
omous holons. The rules enable and "regulate" the flows through 
which subsystems can adapt to changing demands facing the holar- 
chy when dealing with problem-rich environments. The rules thus 
endow the disparate holons with interdependence and an enduring 
coherence: in essence, the structural capacity of the holarchy to inte- 
grate its various parts. A crucial feature of the rules is their capacity 
to coordinate with the local environment - that is, with other holons 
and subholarchies. 

A deeper dive into the inner workings of holonic systems reveals 
the mechanisms supporting this interdependence, which may be 
more familiar to us as "team spirit." The underlying feature is a "ho- 
lonic logic" that balances autonomy and cooperation in the individu- 
al/ group dynamics within the holarchy. As shown in Fig. 2, this logic 
must reconcile two equally foundational epistemologies: the subject/ 
subject way of knowing (which arises through participation) and the 
subject /object way of knowing (which arises as individual agents inter- 
act with(in) heterogeneous social forms). [6] 

The subject/ object way of knowing is rooted in an individual's ob- 
jectively verifiable observations of the world. For example the weight 
of a bag of groceries is objective because it can be put on a scale that 
every subject (individual) can read and conclude that it weighs, say, 
twelve pounds. It is practically impossible to relate to other individu- 
als in this manner, since a person is much more than their precise 
weight or height; it is a complex conglomerate of subjectivities that 
cannot be perceived nor dealt with properly in such a reductionist 
manner. Such objectification not only prevents us from perceiving 
another individual in his or her wholeness, it obscures our own cogni- 
tive biases rooted in preconceptions, preferences, desires, etc. Unfor- 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


txinately our Western culture favors the "objective" way of knowing, 
thus encouraging an impersonal, instrumental way of relating to oth- 
ers to satisfy one's narrow personal interests. 

Fig.2: The two ways of relating in the holonic dyad 

By contrast, the subject/ subject way of knowing is rooted in an indi- 
vidual's subjective experiences of the world, which are private, inter- 
nal events particular to the individual experiencing them. The bag of 
groceries that objectively weighs twelve pounds may feel subjectively 
lighter to an athlete but heavy to a frail, older person - or it might 
start to feel medium-heavy to someone after carrying it a few blocks 
and feel really heavy by the time she makes it home. Once we can ac- 
knowledge that perceiving other individuals (or elements of nature) 
is an inherently subjective challenge, we can realize that "the other" 
is always a richer, more complicated entity than our "objective" ways 
of knowing can encompass. Subject/ subject knowing, then, is a way 
by which we can embrace and reclaim the "wholeness" of "other" 
individuals and nature. 

As the individual develops from childhood to adulthood its in- 
dividuality crystallizes against the forces of the group (family, peer 
pressure, societal norms, etc.) to which he/she applies the subject/ 
object-based epistemological relation of two individual holons (Fig. 



2a) that constitutes the basis of individual agency (and its social com- 
munion). This is necessary for the proper development of individual 
agency. However, once a person reaches adulthood, he or she be- 
comes aware of the inherent subjectivity in everyone's cognition and 
with this capacity can begin to implicitly identify with "the other" in 
an empathic way - a connection called "subject/ subject resonance" 
(Fig. 2b). This empathetic connection between two individual holons 
- to treat another as you would wish to be treated - constitutes the 
basis of individual communion with "another." The subject/ subject 
resonance over time increases the social agency among a group, or 
what might be called the strength of "holonic togetherness." 

By the terms of holonic logic, just as one individual cannot logi- 
cally exist as a subject/ object except in relation to another subject/ 
object individual, so every individual is embedded by way of holonic 
resonance in a larger structural whole, the collective. This implies 
a dynamic, dialectical interplay of "individual mind" and "group 
mind." The agentic and communal poles of both individual holons 
and social holons blend in a kind of cross-dialectical model. (See Fig. 
3.) The social holon exerts its agency through its cohesive structure, 
which applies a "counter-pressure" on the developing individual ho- 
lon. This helps maintain the coherence and shared purpose of the 
social holon. At the same time, the social holon exhibits communality 
through its openness to other species and cultures. In human terms, 
this may consist of everything from intertribal mixes to culturally 
complex nation-states and now global culture. 

The "world arises" in each moment as an individual in the sub- 
ject/object mode of relating encounters "another" in a subject/ob- 
ject mode of relating (Fig. 3a). At the same time this evolves and un- 
folds in relation to the holonic togetherness that arises through the 
subject/subject resonance of group-mind and nature-field at every 
level (Fig. 3b). The psychologist routinely sees individuals struggling 
to integrate this "holonic dichotomy" - the need to develop individual 
agency over and against societal norms, that is, to differentiate them- 
selves, while being integrated and "accepted" by the others at the 
same time (Fig. 3a). From another perspective, the sociologist sees 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


societies as complex holons of individuals coming together through 
cultural paradigms, shared beliefs and narratives, and continuously 
evolving through each individual's own development (Fig. 3b). 

The psychologist's view presumes an agentic society grounded in 
resonance and immediate commonality, while the sociologist's view 
presumes a communal society grounded in intentional agreements. 
Neither approach leads to the other: they are different (polar) ways 
of understanding the same world. But they are partial perspectives 
that holonics seeks to integrate. Holonic systems embrace in equal 
measure both the individual with its differentiated agency and the 
collective (the group /team, society, the state, etc.) on the same level 
(horizontally). This integration occurs on the same level because the 
collective does not constitute a higher level whole or a separate envi- 
ronment of which the individual is merely a part; the integration is a 
result of both individual agency and communion with the collective, 
reconciling their differences through the mechanisms of holonic in- 
terdependence - a kind of "synergistic togetherness" that blends the 
individual and the social. [7] 

Fig.3: The two polar ways of understanding: a) "individual mind" and h) "group 

Most of the problems we face today stem from an overempha- 
sis on the subject/ object ways of relating to one another and to the 
world in general. This way of knowing and relating privileges indi- 



vidual agency and the propensity to build rigid individual hierarchies 
that do not take account of intersubjective cognition. An individual 
approaches "others" and the world from a solipsistic perspective and 
treats everything as subservient to individual wants and needs. At 
its extreme, this paradigm of beliefs and narratives manifests as the 
reductionist "man reigning over" nature and everything else in the 
Universe - a paradigm that has been disastrous in all areas of life, 
from climate change and energy crisis to societal and organizational 

However, as individual agency and communion move toward a 
balance, so do sociocultural agentic and communal ways of being 
and relating. As a society, we are now wimessing a shift away from 
maximal agentic individuality and social communion, toward an 
intensifying individual communion and social agency. The dialecti- 
cal "either/or" which constitutes the familiar dualisms of subject/ 
object, mind /matter, individual /social, and the cognitively disso- 
nant "right /wrong," is beginning to move toward a new polarity of 
'Tjoth/ and," which is characteristic of the subject/ subject resonance. 
The subject/ subject mode of knowing is becoming more deeply val- 
ued as we rediscover our place vis-a-vis each other as well as within 
nature and the Universe. 

The time has come for us to step down from the top of our imag- 
inary hierarchies to integrate ourselves within the larger whole(s), at 
the same level. This can only be achieved by approaching "other" and 
"nature" with empathy, which gives rise to a greater communal ho- 
lonic resonance. This reorientation is key to redesigning societal rioles 
that will turn us from selfish predators into altruistic, generative cre- 
ators,[8] and to redefining our relationship to nature from scavengers 
to responsible caretakers. A new social agency begins to arise rooted 
in local group identity, which manifests through a culture of deep car- 
ing and understanding of "the other" from "the inside," approaching 
all living creatures, nature and the universe with the same desire for 
their well-being as we have for ourselves. 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


Reconceptualizing Social Change: Holonics as a Moral Choice 

How can such insights help to change the societal game? The 
current set of rules, shaped and amplified by modern technology, es- 
sentially require business models based on increasing returns to scale 
(a scenario that classical economics deemed impossible). Contempo- 
rary rules also favor single winners with world-spanning power along 
with a diminishing circle of people controlling a greater and greater 
proportion of our society's wealth. Under these circumstances, mar- 
kets, individual self-interest and libertarianism are incapable of solv- 
ing societal and environmental problems because they are committed 
to the illusion that man occupies the top of a cosmic hierarchy and 
that power and politics are tools to enforce certain rules that favor 
"winners." This perspective is unable to encompass care about hu- 
man beings in their wholeness, as can be actualized, for example, 
through the commons and by working together for the greater good. 
While Adam Smith may have theorized that the Invisible Hand would 
naturally and automatically yield the common good, his ideas were 
born in a society with pervasive social, political and legal constraints 
on individual license. 

The challenge of our time is to embrace the reality of group in- 
terests and to devise governance systems that include those marginal- 
ized by elites who have commandeered "the system" to secure their 
economic authority. Collective provisioning, as in group health insur- 
ance, is not a state -based "socialism" but in holonic terms, a blending 
of the interests of the whole and of each and every individual. Having 
won the most significant battles against labor, companies and inves- 
tors are now buying the electoral process - the very set of "gover- 
nance rules" on which the "winners" thrive in our "pathological" so- 
ciety. It is time to change the rules with more inclusive and generative 
ones and embed them into constitutional systems that can enable free 
flows of creativity in trusted structures that are resistant to capture. 

The great appeal of holonics is that it places societal communion 
at its core, giving the human spirit a chance to address our massive 
failure of social governance. With the human compound-holon that 
we know as society and as the individual, the logic of holonic sys- 



terns offers a way to reconcile the two polarities of individual agency 
and social communion. Holonics insists that we recognize subjective 
experience as a legitimate domain of inquiry equivalent to the priv- 
ileged objective domain of traditional science. At the same time it 
clarifies the logical, interconnected relations of individual and society. 

Taking holonic principles seriously however, requires a whole 
new mind - one that allows the range and diversity of our ontologi- 
cal narratives to continuously compose and decompose themselves. 
This new mind enables us to become participants in a persistent plu- 
rality of novel relationship that embraces differences and thrives on 
them. The incommensurability of beliefs that pervade our lives can 
serve as a source of generative novelty in a unified process of "shared 
becoming." Holonic principles invite us to move beyond the idea of 
separation and conflict, which are the only plausible ways for the du- 
alistically constructed dialectical mind ("either/ or" - "right/ wrong") 
to resolve differences. 

With the logic of holonic systems we can redesign our relation- 
ship and relatedness to others in the social web. It is possible to con- 
struct open, self- organizing fellowships of personal commitment and 
shared response-ability in an intimate field of deep interpersonal re- 
latedness and care. In this field of holonic resonance, we are better 
able to develop clear mind, right body and vital spirit with agency: 
our personal journey toward self-mastery. 

But it is also evident that the greatest strength and power reside 
in social communion as the relational ground that unites each fellow 
into a more excellent whole. We can reimagine the design rules of 
our education, politics and business systems with a focus on discov- 
ery and wisdom. We can design processes that enrich the qualities 
of interdependent care, integrated development, and deeply shared 
trust that arise from basic human kindness and well-being. Genera- 
tive transpersonal fields that reclaim both the individual and the col- 
lective are capable of transforming the world in powerful and ex- 
traordinary ways. 

One result of cultivating generative transpersonal fields is that 
new sorts of creative clusters can self-organize in new, emergent 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


ways. This can foster both human evolutionary development as well 
as technological development, producing unprecedented flows of lo- 
cal "socio-technical combinatorics." [9] (See Fig. 4.) Another result is 
a new emphasis on collective diversity over and against the forces of 
global homogenization, which dismisses the uniqueness and diversity 
of each individual. Having over-emphasized a "social communion" in 
which the individual is depleted of its "unique flavors," such homog- 
enization has squandered the particular gifts and talents that each in- 
dividual can contribute to the "whole" and thus the richness of the 
whole. By reclaiming the individual in its wholeness of "flavors," ho- 
lonics unleashes this very richness of social agency into a new world 
order. The creative expression arising from every "group mind" can 
produce a synergetic blend of diversities (whether local or virtual) 
that can offer effective solutions to the challenges facing us while en- 
riching the global tapestry of life on our planet. [10] 

Virtual Community (software agents) 

"~~--SoclQjiechnical Community (people and artefacts) 

Fig. 4: Holonic Software Infrastructure 

Holacracy: Holonic Design for AgUe Organizational Governance 

The types of interpersonal relations and authority that industrial 
organizations rely upon (entirely based on subject/ object modes of 
interaction) naturally result in either competition, consensus or com- 
promise as the default modus operandi. These are nongenerative pat- 
terns that run our rigid institutional hierarchies. They obstruct great 



flows of creativity and innovative potential. The logic of holonic sys- 
tems can unleash entirely new and generative forms of human rela- 
tionships and organizations in which the total is greater than the sum 
of the parts. 

A promising alternative is holacracy. (See for more 
details.) The term is meant to emphasize a departure from conven- 
tional representative democracy as a governance system ("of the 
people, by the people and for the people") and instead embrace gov- 
ernance of the organization, through the people, for the purpose. 
Holacracy embeds a generative mix of autonomy and cooperation 
in a flexible fabric of holonic design constitutional rules. It constitutes a 
new operating system for organizations that regulate the individual/ 
group dynamics to eliminate on one side the possibility of capture via 
power games, and on the other side, the inherent chaos characteristic 
of "leaderless," decentralized organizations. 

In a holacracy, all the top-down supervisory and managerial po- 
sitions are essentially torn down and replaced by accountability to 
the self and to the "team holon" (named Circle). Roles identify the 
activities and services necessary to achieve organizational/ group ob- 
jectives. As a "holonic organizational design technology," holacracy 
achieves adaptive governance through regulations that foster collabo- 
ration via flexible policymaking adjustments with a focus on disem- 
powering ego-based competition, destructive tendencies and other 
forms of ineffectiveness. Such outcomes are assured by spelling out 
personal accountability functions for each role and by hosting a dem- 
ocratic process that assigns Key Roles endowed with higher authority. 
For example, a designated "Facilitator" ensures that the constitution- 
al rules are followed. 

Every participant in a holacracy is a sensor for what is going on, 
and each plays a role in identifying the tensions in a timely way while 
taking active steps to resolve them. Effectiveness and resistance to 
capture are achieved by enhancing the power of collective decision 
locally via procedures such as: 'After taking Individual Action, a Part- 
ner should tell any affected Role about it, and, on their request, initi- 
ate actions to resolve any Tension created by the Individual Action or 
refrain from taking this Individual Action again in the future." 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


Self-organization and flexibility are ensured via policies such as: 
"A Circle can remove a Sub-Circle through governance by (a) remov- 
ing the Sub-Circle entirely, including all Roles within it, (b) collapsing 
the Sub-Circle into a single Role, thus removing all Roles within it, 
or (c) dissolving the Sub-Circle's boundary, so that all Roles within it 
are absorbed by the Circle." The only valid "Governance" acts of a 
Circle are to create or amend Roles, Policies or Sub-Circles, or to hold 
elections. For a proposed Governance change to be processed and ac- 
cepted, it must meet some criteria: A Proposal is generally valid for 
processing only if it helps one of the Proposer's roles, unless the Pro- 
poser has permission to process tensions for another Role. However, 
evolving the Governance to better reflect what's already happening is 
always allowed, even if unrelated to the Proposer's roles, as is calling 
for an election. 

As a mode of governance for purposeful organization, holacracy 
works by a generative distributed authority structure designed to 
always sense tensions with clarity and to resolve them promptly 
through governance meetings. This results in healthy communion 
that drives group integration and "team spirit." In tactical meetings, 
this process results in clarifying individual accountability as it affects 
synchronization. As a governance system based on the rules of ho- 
lonic interdependence, holacracy optimizes creative flows through a 
flexible organizational structure that radically changes how decisions 
are made and how power is distributed. 

Holonic Software: 

Infrastructures for Open Networks as Catalysts for Change 

Since networked computing and the Internet stand at the center 
of societal transformation right now, it is worth asking how software 
design might be used to advance holonic principles. Holonics opens 
the perspective of designing participatory software platforms for cat- 
alyzing social networks that help people step out of hierarchies and 
avoid pathological organizations. Holonic-based platforms can be a 
tool for people to reshape society and the world by cultivating har- 
monious, enlivening relationships with natural ecosystems through 
better managing the commons. To harness the power of large-scale 



social ecosystems, one can conceptualize their social dynamics using 
holonic logic and embed holonic design rules in the network proto- 
cols and software coordinating their interactions.[ll] (See Fig. 4.) 

Holonics-based software can also be used to design smart infra- 
structures for self-stabilizing energy grids, self-deploying emergency 
task forces and self-reconfiguring manufacturing plants that aU rely 
on a myriad of mobile devices, software agents and human users who 
use local rules and peer-to-peer communication to build their own 
resilient "governance" (workflow coordination) network.[12] 

An intrinsic challenge in such holarchies is the "cohabitation" 
or integration of two ontological levels: the physical one (humans 
and artifacts cooperating) and the logical one (software). The logi- 
cal/ software ontology must emulate the physical ontology through 
software entities (agents) that enable the coordination of cooperative 
tasks. (See Fig. 4.) 

This enables the deployment of a living, self-directed "digital ecol- 
ogy" in which humans are not just "consumers" of data and comput- 
ing applications. Actors in this social network operating environment 
are much more: They are producers, "players" and "inputs" in a new 
"socio-technical combinatorics" ecosystem. Their interactions, medi- 
ated by digitally animated artifacts (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, 
and Google Glass-like devices and more futuristic brain implants), 
can be coordinated and synergistically orchestrated to steer complex, 
interdependent global-scale systems. 

Thus holonics offers a powerful "design toolbox" of methods and 
techniques with which to construct the architecture of such digital 
ecologies. Holonics can be the basis for a host of "smart infrastruc- 
tures" for a sustainable world that include production, agriculture, 
defense, finance and the economy as a whole. In this sense, holonic 
institutions aspire to invent new notions of sovereignty beyond the 
nation-state. Yet the most important new vector of holonic sover- 
eignty is surely the sovereignty of individual humans to protect fun- 
damental human rights and self-organize new types of collective in- 
stitutions in transnational ways. [13] 

Ulieru \ The Logic of Holonic Systems 


Professor Mihaela Ulieru works with many governments and organizations seeking 
to make ICT an integral component of policy making for a healthier, safer, more sus- 
tainable and innovation-driven world. She founded two research lahs leading several 
large-scale projects which tackle the management of complex situations through more 
organic ways of governance, such as IT Revolutions, Industrial Informatics, Future of 
Medicine, Socio-Technical Combinatorics, Adaptive Risk Management, Living Tech- 
nologies and Emulating the Mind. For her scholarship on holonics applied to mitigate 
global challenges in an interdependent world she was awarded, among many others, the 
"Industrial Research Chair in Intelligent Systems" and the "Canada Research Chair in 
e-Society" to explore organizational and societal transformation in the digital economy 
and the emergence of participatory platforms. 


[I] Watts, D., Everything is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us (Random House, 

[2] Bejan, A., Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, 
Physics, Technology, and Social Organization (Random House, 2012). 

[3] Mella, P., The Holonic Revolution (PaviaVniYersity Press, 2009), available at: http:/ / / scientifica / download / Mella-sito_20 1 0-0 1 -23 .pdf. 

[4] Mihaela Ulieru, 'Adaptive Information Infrastructures for the e-Society," in Engi- 
neering Self-Organizing Applications, Giovanna DiMarzo Serugendo and Anthony 
Karageorgios (Eds.) (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2005). 

[5] Mihaela Ulieru and John Verdon, "IT Revolutions in the Industry: From the 
Command Economy to the eNetworked Industrial Ecosystem," Proceedings of 
the 1st International Workshop on Industrial Ecosystems, IEEE International 
Conference on Industrial Informatics, Daejoen, Korea, July 13-17 2008. 

[6] Goddard, G., Holonic Logic and the Dialectic of Consciousness, available at http: / / 

[7] Mella, P., TfieHo[onicRevoiution(Pavia University Press, 2009), available at: http: / / / scientifica / download / Mella-sito_20 1 0-0 1 -23 .pdf 

[8] Geoff Mulgan, The Locust and the Bee (Princeton University Press, 2013). 

[9] Mihaela Ulieru and Rene Doursat, "Emergent Engineering: A Radical Paradigm 
Shift," International Journal of Autonomous and Adaptive Communication Systems 
(IJAACS), 4(1) (2011). 

[10] Don Tapscott, Global Solutions Networks, at http: / / 

[II] Mihaela Ulieru, 'Adaptive Information Infrastructures for the e-Society," in Engi- 
neering Self-Organizing Applications, Giovanna DiMarzo Serugendo and Anthony 
Karageorgios (Eds.) (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2005). 

[12] Ibid. 

[13] Don Tapscott, Global Solutions Networks, at http: / / 

Chapter 12 

The Algorithmic Governance 
Of Common-Pool Resources 

By Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu 

Introduction: Resource Allocation in Open Systems 

Using a methodology called sociologically inspired computing,[l] 
researchers are now attempting to solve engineering problems by de- 
veloping "formal models of social processes." This entails examining 
how people behave in similar situations and, informed by a theory 
of that behavior grounded in the social sciences, developing a formal 
characterization of the social behavior (based on the theory) using 
mathematical and/ or computational logic. This logical specification 
then provides the basis for the specification of an algorithmic frame- 
work for solving the original problem. 

In networks that function as open systems, for example, a signifi- 
cant challenge is how to allocate scarce resources. 

This is a vexing challenge because open computing systems and 
networks are formed on the fly, by mutual agreement, and therefore 
they may encounter situations at run-time that were not anticipated 
at design-time. Specific examples include ad hoc networks, sensor 
networks, opportunistic and vehicular networks, and cloud and grid 
computing. AH these applications have at least one feature in com- 
mon: the system components (henceforth referred to as agents) must 
somehow devise a means to collectivize their computing resources 
(processor time, battery power, memory, etc.) in a common pool, 
which they can then draw upon in order to achieve their individual 
goals in a group (or as a group) that they would be unable to do if 
they each functioned in isolation. 

Pitt Diaconescu \ Algorithmic Governance 


However, open systems face serious challenges in coordinating 
agents because there is no centralized controller-agent that is com- 
pelling other agents in the system to behave in a certain way with re- 
gards to the provision and appropriation of resources. Furthermore, 
all agents may be competing for a larger share of the common pool, 
and may therefore not comply with the requirements for "correct" 
(pro-social) behavior. For example, they may appropriate resourc- 
es that they were not allocated, or they may appropriate resources 
correctly but fail to contribute expected resources (a phenomenon 
known as "free riding"). 

The Tragedy of the Commons 

So, applying the first step in the methodology of sociologically 
inspired computing, the question is: How do people collectively al- 
locate shared common-pool resources when there is no centralized 
controller "dictating" what the allocation should be? This prompts 
two further questions: 1) How do they solve problems such as free 
riding and other examples of anti-social behavior? 2) How do people 
allocate common-pool resources in a way that is considered fair by 
the individuals involved (in some sense of the word "fair"), and is 
sustainable in the long-term (i.e., the self-renewing resource, Uke a for- 
est or fishery, is properly managed and maintained so that it is not 

One analysis of this problem, called the tragedy of the commons, 
suggests that there is no internal solution to this problem. According 
to biologist Garrett Hardin, people will inevitably deplete (exhaust) 
common-pool resources in the short term even if that is in no one's 
interest in the long-term. Many people assume that the only way to 
ensure that such resources are maintained is through externalized 
oversight by some centralized body (e.g., government) or through 
privatization. These solutions are not, of course, available to engi- 
neers of open computing systems. 

Ostrom's Self-Governing Institutions 

Although some economists believe that people will inevitably de- 
plete common-pool resources to which they have access, the empiri- 



cal data of hundreds of case stxidies suggests that other outcomes are 
possible. For example, based on extensive fieldwork, from water irri- 
gation systems in Spain to alpine meadows in Switzerland and forests 
in Japan, economist and political scientist Elinor Ostrom observed 
that actually people tend to co-operate in such collective action situ- 
ations, not only to avoid depleting the resource, but to actively main- 
tain it, even over the course of generations.[2] Ostrom was awarded 
the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 2009 for her extensive field- 
work and theoretical innovation in demonstrating the feasibility of 
managing common-pool resources. 

The essence of the many counter-examples is this: it turns out 
that people are very good at making stuff up. In particular, people 
are very good at making up rules to deal with novel circumstances 
and challenges. Without the ability to make up rules, there would 
be no playing of games, for example; nor would people be able to 
improvise coordinated responses to emergencies. Similarly, Ostrom 
observed in many collective action situations, people make up rules 
to 5e!/-determine a fair and sustainable resource allocation. People 
voluntarily agree to abide by and regulate their behavior. Notably, 
these are not immutable physical laws; they are social conventions 
that people can and sometimes do break - either by accident, neces- 
sity or (sadly) sheer malice. 

The invention of conventional rules (and their rationalization 
and stabilization into what Ostrom called institutions) is a necessary 
condition for preserving resources over time, but it is not a sufficient 
condition. On some occasions when communities develop an institu- 
tion to manage their affairs, the resource is successfully sustained, 
but sometimes it is not. Addressing the requirement to supply self- 
governing institutions for enduring common-pool resource manage- 
ment, Ostrom proposed eight institutional design principles: 

Boundaries: who is and is not a member of the institutions should 
be clearly defined - along with the resources that are being al- 

Pitt Diaconescu \ Algorithmic Governance 


Congruence: the rules should be congruent with the prevailing lo- 
cal environments (including the profile of the members them- 

Participation: those individuals who are affected by the collec- 
tive choice arrangements should participate in formulating and 
adopting them; 

Monitoring: compliance with the rules should be monitored by 
the members themselves, or by agencies appointed by them; 

Proportionality: graduated sanctions should ensure that punish- 
ment for non-compliance is proportional to the seriousness of 
the transgression; 

Conflicts: the institution should provide fast, efficient and effective 
recourse to conflict resolution and conflict prevention mecha- 

Autonomy: whatever rules the members agree to govern their af- 
fairs, no external authority can overrule them; 

System of systems: multiple layers of provisioning and gover- 
nance should be nested within larger systems. 

A metareview has confirmed these principles with only minor adjust- 
ments. [3] 

A Formal Characterization of Electronic Institutions 

Elinor Ostrom's research provides a theory of how people can 
solve the collective-action problem of common-pool resource alloca- 
tion. To use this theory as a basis for engineering solutions in open 
computing systems, three related questions must be addressed: 1) 
Can the theory of self-governing institutions be given a formal char- 
acterization in computational logic? 2) Can the computational logic 
specification be given an algorithmic interpretation that can be used 
to implement a self-organizing electronic institution? 3) Can the agents 
in a self-organizing electronic institution be designed according to 
Ostrom's eight principles so as to successfully manage and sustain a 
common-pool resource? 



Pitt, Schaumeier and Artikis give a positive answer to all three 
questions. [4] The first six of Ostrom's principles were each axioma- 
tized in first-order logic using the Event Calculus, a language used in 
Artificial Intelligence to represent and reason about actions and the 
effects of actions. This axiomatic specification was then converted 
into Prolog and queried as a logic program: i.e. the specification is its 
own implementation. As such, the set of clauses comprising the logic 
program constitutes an algorithmic specification for self-governance. 
Finally, the implementation was tested in a multi-agent resource al- 
location system that allowed clauses for each principle to be individu- 
ally included in successively more complex experiments. The results 
showed that the more principles that were included, the more the 
agents (as members of the institution) were able to sustain the re- 
source and maintain a high membership. 

But Is It Fair? 

Distributive Justice and the Canon of Legitimate Claims 

These experiments demonstrated that Ostrom's institutional de- 
sign principles for managing enduring common-pool resources could 
provide the basis for achieving sustainable resource allocation in open 
computing systems. One complication, however, is that certain el- 
ements of human social systems cannot necessarily be represented 
in the logic of electronic "social" systems. For example, in establish- 
ing the congruence of the provision and appropriation rules to the 
prevailing state of the environment (Principle 2), a software designer 
might assume that if Principle 3, requiring user participation in mak- 
ing rules, were in place, then those affected by the rules would select 
rules that were intrinsically or implicitly "fair." This assumption can- 
not be made in electronic networks whose components are without 
any understanding of a concept of "fairness," however. 

To address this issue, Pitt, Busquets and MacBeth[5] suggest ap- 
plying the methodology to another theory from the social scienc- 
es, the theory of distributive justice articulated by the philosopher 
Nicholas Rescher.[6] Rescher observed that distributive justice had 
been held, by various sources, to consist of treating people wholly 
or primarily according to one of seven canons (established principles 

Pitt Diaconescu \ Algorithmic Governance 


expressed in English). These canons consist of equality, need, ability, 
effort, productivity, social utility and supply-and-demand. However, 
these canons each have different properties and qualities, and they 
therefore speak to many different (and possibly inconsistent) notions 
of utility, fairness, equity, proportionality, envy-free conviviality, ef- 
ficiency, timeliness, etc. 

Rescher's analysis showed that each canon, taken in isolation, was 
inadequate as the sole criterion of distributive justice. He proposed 
instead that distributive justice could be represented by the canon of 
claims, which consists of treating people according to their legitimate 
claims, both positive and negative. Then the issue of "Which is the 
preferred canon of distributive justice?" can be displaced by questions 
such as: "What are the legitimate claims in a specific context, for fair- 
ness? How can plurality be accommodated? How can conflicts be rec- 

Pitt, Busquets and MacBeth implemented another multi-agent 
system testbed and conducted another set of experiments to explore 
resource allocation in an economy of scarcity. (This scenario is de- 
fined as one in which there are insufficient resources at any time- 
point for everyone to have what they demand, but there are sufficient 
resources over a succession of time-points for everyone to get enough 
to be 'satisfied'). In this testbed, each of the canons (if it was relevant 
in this context) was represented as a function that computed an or- 
dering of the agents requesting resources. To address the plurality of 
claims, the functions were then used in a weighted Borda Count - a 
voting protocol that computes an overall rank order and is more like- 
ly to produce a consensus outcome rather than a simple majoritarian 
outcome. To reconcile conflicts among claims, the agents themselves 
decided the weight to be associated with each canon in prioritizing 
the agents' claims. 

The results showed that a group of agents, in an electronic insti- 
tution based on Ostrom's principles, could self-organize a distribu- 
tion of resources using the canon of legitimate claims such that it was 
fair over time. That is, while at any one time-point the resource alloca- 
tion might be very unfair (using a well-known and often-used fairness 



metric, the Gini index), a group could nonetheless achieve allocations 
that were very fair over a series of time -points. The distribution coiold 
also be made fairer than alternative allocation schemes based on ran- 
dom assignment, rationing or strict queuing. 

Socio-Technical Systems 

The formalization and implementation of social processes, such 
as Ostrom's institutional design principles and Rescher's theory of 
distributive justice, provide an algorithmic basis for governance of 
common-pool resources in electronic social systems. These are not 
models of how human social systems work - but nor are they intend- 
ed to be. Instead of asking if these are testable models with predictive 
or explanatory capacity (adequacy criteria for this are included in the 
methodology set forth by Jones, Artikis and Pitt[7]), a more pertinent 
foUowup question is: Can this formal approach to algorithmic self- 
governance be injected into open socio-technical systems - i.e. , systems 
in which human participants interact with an electronically saturated 
infrastructure, or with each other through an electronically-mediated 
interface, in trying to exploit, and sustain, a common pool resource? 

Here are three examples in which algorithmic self-governance 
could be usefully applied in socio-technical systems: decentralized 
community energy systems, consensus formation in open plan of- 
fices, and 'fair' information practices in participatory sensing applica- 

1. In a decentralized community energy system, a group of geograph- 
ically co-located residences may be both producers and consumers of 
energy. For example, the residence may have installed photovoltaic 
cells, small wind turbines or other renewable energy source; and the 
residence occupants have the usual requirements to operate their ap- 
pliances. Instead of each residence generating and using its own en- 
ergy, and each suffering the consequences of over- or under-produc- 
tion, the vicissitudes of variable supply and demand could be evened 
out by providing energy to a common-pool and computing a distri- 
bution of energy using algorithmic self-governance. Furthermore, 
excessive demand, which would otherwise lead to a power outage. 

Pitt &' Diaconescu \ Algorithmic Governance 


could be pre-empted by synchronized collective action in reducing 

2. Similarly an open plan office is a working environment that 
requires people to share a common space. However, a violation of 
conventional rules determining what is (and is not) acceptable be- 
havior can cause instances of incivility which, if untreated, can lead 
to problems of escalating retaliation, a demoralized or demotivated 
workforce, staff turnover, and other problems. We have developed a 
prototype system in which we regard the (intangible) "office ambi- 
ence" as a pooled resource which the office occupants can deplete by 
anti-social behavior and re -provision by pro-social behavior. The sys- 
tem interface supports consensus formation by enabling the office- 
workers themselves to determine what is (and is not) anti-social be- 
havior, and supports them in detecting violations, issuing apologies 
and encouraging forgiveness. This is an instantiation of Ostrom's 
third principle - that those affected by collective choice arrangements 
should participate in their selection. Ostrom's fifth and sixth princi- 
ples - dealing with the system of conflict prevention and resolution 
- should encourage pro-social behavior. 

3. Participatory sensing applications are innovative systems that ag- 
gregate and manipulate user-generated data to provide a service. A 
typical example is taking users' mobile phone location and accelera- 
tion data to infer traffic density and so provide a transportation advice 
service. However, in many of these applications, the generators of 
the data are not the primary beneficiaries, and furthermore, there are 
severe privacy concerns over who has access to this data, how long it 
is stored, and what is used for. An alternative approach is to regard 
this user-generated data as a knowledge commons, and regulate access 
through self-determined rules, and so achieve a "fair" return of ser- 
vice for user-generated data. 

Adaptive Institutions and Algorithmic Governance: 
The Way Forward 

Studies in technology and law have often referred to the law lag, 
in which existing legal provisions are inadequate to deal with a social. 



cultural or commercial context created by rapid advances in informa- 
tion and communication technology (ICT).[8] 

We can reasonably refer to a similar phenomenon of "institution 
lag," whereby the rate of technological advance far outstrips the abil- 
ity of traditional institutions to adapt fast enough to track the activity 
it was intended to regulate. Yet adaptive institutions have been identi- 
fied as a critical tool in addressing environmental challenges such as 
climate change and sustainability.[9] 

The challenge of devising effective algorithmic governance has a 
lot to do with scale. We can observe that, at the micro-level, human 
participants are able to self-organize and self- adapt by playing various 
roles, but at the macro-level, the emergent outcomes of unrestricted 
self-organization may be ineffective or undesirable (e.g., it may result 
in a tragedy of the commons). 

We believe that more desirable macro-outcomes may be achieved 
by introducing a meso-level of governance: a rule -based, ICT-enabled 
algorithmic framework for self-governance that is designed to assure 
that whatever emerges at the macro-level represents the self-identified 
best interests of the community's majority. The ultimate result would 
be to create more flexible institutions that could adapt more quickly 
to rapid societal changes. Since such rapid societal changes are being 
caused by ICT, it makes sense that the rapid adaptation required may 
be best enabled by ICT. Indeed, this may be the only feasible approach. 

The ICT-enabled framework would provide an interaction me- 
dium that inherently implements Ostrom's rules, enabling partici- 
pants to self-organize into "fair" institutions (avoiding the tragedy of 
the commons) and to self-adapt such institutions to contextual changes 
(avoiding the institution lag). Such ICT framework should enable par- 
ticipants to perform critical activities, such as defining community 
rules for resource sharing, boundary definitions and non-compliance 
sanctions. It should also provide core automatic functions that facili- 
tate the participant's tasks, including for instance: managing mem- 
bership based on boundary definitions; evaluating participant com- 
pliance with rules and applying sanctions; ensuring protection from 
external intrusion and interference; and provisioning comprehensible 

Pitt Diaconescu \ Algorithmic Governance 


feedback on emerging results such as "fairness," at both micro and 
macro levels, which is critical for efficient rule adaptation. Finally, 
such a system must ensure essential properties such as overall stabil- 
ity, robustness and resilience, while preserving crucial social concepts 
like privacy, safety and security. 

In this context, the meso-layer ICT framework is vital in helping 
to deliver the desired outcomes. This is why a platform like Open 
Mustard Seed (see Chapter 13), which offers designers at least the 
opportunity to strike the right balance between continuity and stabil- 
ity on the one hand, and adaptivity and responsiveness on the other, 
is crucial if algorithmic governance of common-pool resources, and 
other forms of collective action, are to be successful. 

At this stage, of course, there is much that we do not know. For 
instance, the ICT system's scalability is an important concern. Here, 
scale relates to the total number of participants; the level of hetero- 
geneity in targeted environments and participant profiles; the num- 
ber of societal interests considered and perhaps also their cultural 
backgrounds; and, the incidence of conflicts among intersecting het- 
erogeneous groups. Achieving and maintaining macro-objectives in 
a large-scale system composed of autonomous self-adaptive agents 
and situated in a continuously changing environment, will require a 
trans-disciplinary investigation across the social and computational 

A common feature observable in most (or all?) natural systems 
of similar scales and dynamics, such as living organisms, societies or 
economies, is their reliance on holonic organizations (see Chapter 1 1 
"Organic Governance Through the Logic of Holonic Systems," by 
Mihaela Ulieru). As first described by Arthur Koestler in the 1960s, 
each system element is both an autonomous entity pursuing its own 
objectives and controlling its internal resources as well as an element 
nested within a higher-level organization and contributing to its high- 
er-level objectives by following its control commands. Recursively 
composing elements in this manner results in a holonic organization, 
or "holarchy" - a hierarchy in which each element is both autono- 
mous yet contained within higher-level structures. 



A holarchy seems essential for managing scalability issues be- 
cause the structure enables problems to be detected and dealt with 
in isolation, at the lowest possible level, without disrupting the larger 
system. The holonic structure also ensures that both micro (individu- 
al) and macro (community) objectives are met concomitantly. 

Successfully delivering such systems would directly satisfy Os- 
trom's eighth principle, i.e., a self-governing system of systems. But 
one of the critical difficulties here is the implementation of each com- 
munity's "dual nature" as both an autonomous community with its 
own objectives and fairness rules and as a participant in a larger com- 
munity with higher-level objectives and equity goals. This dualism 
reflects the built-in tensions of any individual, who naturally pursues 
personal objectives (selfish nature) while respecting larger commu- 
nity objectives (societal or transcendental nature). 

Unresolved Issues 

There are a number of issues that remain unresolved in devising 
systems of algorithmic self-governance, however. One involves the 
various conflicts that may occur when members belong to several 
communities with incompatible notions of fairness. Once these chal- 
lenges are addressed theoretically, the ICT framework could in prin- 
ciple implement the necessary infrastructure and mechanisms for 
ensuring that the targeted system could self-organize into a holonic 
structure featuring the desired properties. 

The "social ergonomics" of self-governance platforms is another 
important aspect that will need to be evaluated and refined. Notably, 
even if the macro-objectives emerging at any one time are fair with 
respect to a society's common good, and even if fairness is ensured 
in the long-term for each individual, this will not necessarily imply an 
acceptable experience for each individual in that society. For instance, 
while change may be essential for ensuring fairness in a dynamic en- 
vironment, change may also cause considerable distress and discom- 
fort to individuals experiencing it. From an individual's perspective, 
a relatively "unfair" state of affairs, in which they can comfortably 
survive in more or less stable circumstances, may be preferable to 
an "absolute fairness" that entails frequent and potentially dramatic 

Pitt Diaconescu \ Algorithmic Governance 


changes, such as sudden progressions and regressions in their living 
standard. In other words, a world that is experienced as volatile may 
be less desirable than a certain degree of unfairness. 

Yet, having algorithmic controls at their fingertips, individuals 
participating in a group may feel that they have no choice but to en- 
gage in a process of continuous negotiation and adaptation to rule- 
sets and social norms. The system's affordances would engender an 
open cycle of societal self-adaptations and frequent change, inducing 
societal stress and fatigue. Nonetheless, since efficiency (i.e., speed) is 
a defining characteristic of ICT systems, an ICT-based solution could 
end up introducing additional and potentially thornier problems. 

There are other important questions to address: 

• How vulnerable would such ICT system be to "hijacking" 
by external parties and what could be the consequences? 

• When is fairness preferable to a certain degree of competi- 
tion and could the system be re-configured to support either 

• Is the majority's opinion always in the community's best 

• Are there any collateral costs that such system would place 
on society? 


Such questions and the ensuing design requirements must be 
carefully considered before irreversibly embedding societal gover- 
nance in algorithmic technical systems. Since all possible scenarios 
cannot be predicted and addressed in advance, the ICT system itself 
must be sufficiently flexible to enable its evolution in parallel to the 
society it serves. If we can address such challenges, the potential re- 
wards in empowering grassroots solutions to local issues (e.g., quality 
of experience in one's living space) and coordinating collective action 
on a planetary scale (e.g., ensuring resource sustainabUity), are incal- 
culable. But even then, given the dismal, unresponsive performance 
of the alternatives to algorithmic governance and self-organization, 
one could even simply ask: Can we afford not to? 



Jeremy Pitt is a Reader in Intelligent Systems in the Department of Electrical ir Elec- 
tronic Engineering at Imperial College London, UK. His research interests are in self- 
organizing multi-agent systems and their application to computational sustainability. 
He has collaborated widely, having worked on over 30 national and international prof 
ects, and has been involved in much inter-disciplinary research, having worked with 
lawyers, philosophers, psychologists, physiologists and fashion designers. He also has a 
strong interest in the social implications of technology, and had edited two volumes in 
this concern: This Pervasive Day (IC Press: 2012) and The Computer After Me (IC 
Press: 2014). 

Ada Diaconescu is an assistant professor in the Computing and Networks department 
of Telecom ParisTech, in Paris, France. She is also a member of the CNRS LTCI research 
laboratory (Information Processing and Communication Laboratory). Her research in- 
terests include autonomic and organic computing, software engineering for self-adaptive 
and self-organising systems, component and service-oriented architectures, and interdis- 
ciplinary solutions for managing the complexity of cyber-physical systems. She received 
her PhD in computer science and electronic engineering from Dublin City University in 
2006. Before joining Telecom ParisTech in 2009, she carried out various research projects 
at University of Grenoble, Orange Labs and INRIA Rhone Alpes. 


[1] Andrew Jones, Alexander Artikis and Jeremy Pitt, "The Design of Intelligent 
Socio-Technical Systems," Artificial Intelligence Review 39(l):5-20, 2013. 

[2] Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective 
Action, Cambridge University Press, 1990. 

[3] Michael Cox, Gwen Arnold and Sergio ViUamayor Tomas, 'A Review of Design 
Principles for Community-based Natural Resource Management," Ecology and 
Society 15(4):l-38, 2010. 

[4] Jeremy Pitt, Julia Schaumeier, Alexander Artikis, 'Axiomatization of Socio-Eco- 
nomic Principles for Self-Organizing Institutions: Concepts, Experiments and 
Challenges. Trans. Auton. Adapt. Sys. 7(4): 1-39, 2012. 

[5] Jeremy Pitt, Didac Busquets and Sam Macbeth, "Self-Organizing Common-Pool 
Resource Allocation and Principles of Distributive Justice," submitted to Trans. 
Auton. Adapt. Sys. (forthcoming), 2014. 

[6] Nicholas Rescher, Distributive Justice (Bobbs-Merrill PubUshing, 1966). 

[7] Andrew Jones, Alexander Artikis and Jeremy Pitt, "The Design of Intelligent 
Socio-Technical Systems," Artificial Intelligence Review 39(l):5-20, 2013. 

[8] Lyria Bennett Moses, "Recurring Dilemmas: The Law's Race to Keep Up with 
Technological Change," Journa! of Law, Technology and Privacy, 2007(2):239-285, 

[9] Royal Commission on Environmental Protection (Chairman: John Lawton). 
28th Report: Adapting Institutions to Climate Change. The Stationery Office Lim- 
ited, 2010. 

Chapter 13 

The ID3 Open Mustard Seed Platform 

By Thomas Hardjono, Patrick Deegan and ]ohn H. Clippinger 

Open Mustard Seed (OMS), a project of ID3 (the Institute for Institu- 
tional Innovation by Data-Driven Design) and the M.I.T. Media Lab, 
seeks to develop new social ecosystems consisting of trusted self- 
healing digital institutions operating on open networks. The center- 
piece of OMS is an open data platform that enables people to share 
all their personal data within a legally constituted "trust framework." 
This framework allows people to initiate their own "personal data 
store" (PDS) that can securely store and process static and dynamic 
data about themselves. All elements of the trust framework - open 
authentication, storage, discovery, payment, auditing, market mak- 
ing and monetized "app store" services - are based on "privacy by 
design" principles. 

That is, privacy, security and trusted exchange are built into the 
very design of the system. 

It is important to make these principles a functional reality in 
digital networks if we are going to unlock the great stores of latent 
value that open networks hold. As postulated by Reed's Law, the val- 
ue in a network increases exponentially as interactions move from 
a "broadcasting model" that offers "best content" (in which value is 
described by the number of consumers JV) to a network of "peer- 
to-peer transactions" (where the network's value is based on "most 
members," mathematically denoted as N^). However, by far the most 
valuable networks are based on those that facilitate group ajfiliations. 
When users have tools for "free and responsible association for com- 
mon purposes" the value of the network soars exponentially to 2'^.[1] 
(For more, see Chapter 3, "The Next Great Internet Disruption: Au- 
thority and Governance," by David BoUier and John H. Clippinger.) 



The latent value of "Group Forming Networks," or GFNs, as 
David Reed calls them, cannot be accessed, however, unless there is 
an appropriate network architecture and tools. We need a network 
architecture and software systems that can facilitate the formation 
of trust and social capital in user-centric and scalable ways. This is 
particularly important as more sectors of commerce, governance 
and social life are shaped by large databases of personal information 
whose opaque uses are causing legitimate concerns about data secu- 
rity, personal privacy and social trust. 

OMS is intended as a corrective. It seeks to let individuals nego- 
tiate their own social contracts regarding the uses of their personal 
information. By providing a consent-based platform to manage data 
directly and responsively OMS enables the emergence of new sorts 
of effective, quasi-autonomous governance and self-provisioning. 
And it achieves these goals without necessarily or directly requiring 
government. Online communities working in weU-designed software 
environments can act more rapidly, and with greater legitimacy than 
conventional government institutions. 

Data Commons and Digital Law 

This scenario is inspired not just by Reed's analysis of how to 
reap value from networks, but by the extensive scholarship of Elinor 
Ostrom, the Nobel Laureate in economics in 2009. Ostrom's pioneer- 
ing work identified key principles by which self-organized groups 
can manage common-pool resources in fair and sustainable ways. [2] 
If data were to be regarded as a common-pool resource, Ostrom's 
research suggests that it would be possible for online groups to de- 
vise their own data commons to manage their personal data in their 
own interests. (For more on the actual design of such a platform, see 
Chapter 12, Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu, "The Algorithmic Gov- 
ernance of Common-Pool Resources.") 

These insights open the possibility for the data commons to be 
the basis for self-organizing digital institutions in which law would 
have a very different character from the kinds of law we know to- 
day. The development of "digital law" in self-organizing digital in- 
stitutions would enable users to devise new types of legal contracts 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 


that are computationally expressible and executable. As Bollier and 
Clippinger have argued, new forms of law based on computable 
code could provide powerful new platforms for governance and new 
checks against corruption and insider collusion. [3] Law could be- 
come more dynamic, evolvable and outcome-oriented, and the art of 
governance could be subject to the iterative innovations of Moore's 
Law. Designs could be experimentally tested, evaluated by actual out- 
comes, and made into better iterations. 

A reliable system of digital law would provide an important foun- 
dation for unlocking the enormous value contained in "Big Data." 
One of the most robust segments of tech innovation is focused on 
identifying behavioral and consumer patterns in billions of tele- 
phone call records, credit card transactions, GPS location fixes and 
other sources as a way to learn more about consumer behavior and 
to make new markets. Such data also has enormous potential in im- 
proving public policies, government programs, healthcare and many 
other activities because they allow us to precisely measure actual be- 
haviors and patterns of interaction among people. 

This vision of a data-driven society is not likely to progress, how- 
ever, unless we can develop credible systems of law and governance 
to protect the security and private of personal data. Open Mustard 
Seed seeks to provide just such a platform. The remainder of this 
chapter is a semi-technical discussion of the design of the OMS in- 
frastructure. The basic goal is to let people build their own highly 
distributed social ecosystems for reliably governing shared resources, 
including access to personal data. The OMS can be viewed as a new 
kind of "social stack" of protocols consisting of software and legal 
trust frameworks for self-organized digital institutions. 

The Design of Open Mustard Seed 

There are two key building blocks in the architecture of OMS: 
the Trusted Compute Cell (TCC) and the Trusted Compute Framework 

The Trusted Compute Cell can be considered a cell unit that in- 
dividuals control in order to specify and implement their personal 
data preferences in networked computing. A TCC can be replicated. 



conjoined with other cells and enhanced with capabilities that are 
context-specific. It helps to see the TCC from the perspective of the 
social functions it seeks to provide (as a service) to its owner. When the 
owner of a TCC is an individual that represents himself or herself in 
the virtual space, the TCC acts as an identity manager, personal data 
manager, registry of his or her connections (to other TCCs), and an 
applications execution manager, among other functions. 

RM = Registry Management 
IM = Identity Management 
PM = PDS Management 
CM = Compute Management 
AM = Applications Management 

Trusted Compute Cell (TCC) 

Fig. 1: Components of the TCC 

When a TCC is created to serve as an organizational unit (e.g., 
social group or digital institution), the TCC has the capability to pro- 
vide services that pertain to groups and group-behaviors. In this case, 
the TCC establishes a group identity, and also performs membership 
management, collective data store management, shared applications 
management and other group-supporting services. 

The OMS project designed the TCC as a cell unit from which 
larger digital "organisms" and social constructs can be created in net- 
work spaces. To perform these functions, the TCC must fulfill five 
distinct technological functions, as outlined in Fig. 2: 

1. Identity Management: The function of identity management 
includes authentication, authorization, audit and log, core-iden- 
tity and persona management, group identity management, as- 
sertions and claims management, single-sign-on (SSO) establish- 
ment, and others. 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 147 

2. Personal Data Store (PDS) Management: The PDS system 
is a component inside the TCC that collects data (or receives 
streams of data) coming from the owner's devices, either gener- 
ated by the device (e.g., GPS data) or proxied by the device (e.g., 
device pulling down copies of the owner's postings on external 
social network sites). The PDS system also exposes a number of 
APIs to external readers or consumers of the de -personalized 
data, such as analytics organizations and data brokers that make 
available the de -personalized data to the market. 

An important sub-component of the PDS system is the dynamic 
rule engine, which performs the role of a filtering gateway for 
access requests to the TCC owner's data in the PDS. The rule 
engine receives queries and returns answers to the querier, all 
the while ensuring that the responses follow the data access 
policies set by the owner. As such the rule engine acts as Policy 
Enforcement Point (PEP) for access requests to data in the PDS 

3. Applications Management: Applications within the OMS archi- 
tecture will be executed in the context of the calling (and man- 
aging) TCC. The owner of a TCC can stand-up an application 
for his or her sole use, or stand-up an application that will be 
shared by a group or community. A shared application can then 
be made accessible (to other TCCs who are community mem- 
bers) through its published APIs. As such, the management and 
instrumentation of applications is a core requirement of TCCs. 

4. Compute Power Management: Related to applications man- 
agement is the need for compute power to be expanded or re- 
duced in an elastic manner depending on the current demand 
of the TCC. Elastic compute capability is particularly relevant 
in the case of community-shared applications, which may be 
shared by hundreds to millions of TCCs. 

5. Registry dC Cell Management: The registry in the TCC is the 

component that keeps track of identities, relationships, access 
policies, the TCCs memberships (to communities or institu- 



tions), and others. The registry also aids in the day-to-day man- 
agement of the TCC by its owner. The registry acts as a PoUcy 
Administration Point (PAP) where the owner of a TCC can set 
poUcies regarding access to applications in the TCC (which is 
relevant in community-shared applications) and access to the 
owner's data in the PDS. 

Trusted Compute Framework 

Fig. 2: Functions of the TCC 

The Trusted Compute Framework (TCF) 

The TCF is a larger unit of computational capability that is de- 
signed to operate in the virtual environment atop a virtual machine 
layer. One useful way to view the TCF is as a virtual resource contain- 
er within which one or more TCC operate. The primary purposes 
of the TCF are: (1) to support the secure and uninterrupted opera- 
tions of the TCCs; and (2) to ensure the TCF as a compute unit can 
operate atop the virtualization stack (e.g., hypervisor layer, security 
monitor layer, hardware abstraction layer, etc.) operated by the cloud 

Fig. 3 attempts to illustrate a generic virtualization stack with a 
TCF environment containing the TCCs. Fig. 3(a) illustrates a TCF 
with multiple TCCs, where the TCF and the TCCs are viewed as a 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 149 

portable constructs that are moveable from one virtualization stack 
to another. Fig. 3(b) shows two different TCFs (#2 and #3) running 
multiple TCC cells with relationships or links among them (within 
the same TCP and across TCFs). 

Using the TCP and TCC constructs, the OMS project aims to sup- 
port millions of TCCs, where each TCC represents an individual or 
a community. In this way the OMS platform can not only be used for 
peer-to-peer interactions, but also for peer-to-community and peer- 
to- business relationships. 

The TCP is a portable compute unit which can be spun-up (and 
shut-down) by its owner at a TCP-compliant cloud provider (or self- 
operated infrastructure). The TCP is portable in that it can be relo- 
cated from one TCP-compliant cloud provider to another, using a 
trustworthy migration protocol. 




Virtualization APIs 
& H/W Abstraction Layer 


Virtualization APIs 
& H/W Abstraction Layer 


Virtualization APIs 
& H/W Abstraction Layer 

1 1 TPI^ Dri^ 



TPW Hardware | 

(O-OO) Tnjsteid Compute Cell (TCC) 





Trrjsterj Corrrpute Frameworks (TCP) 


I Hypervisor 



I Hardware 

I I TPM Handware | 

I TCC membership in group TCC 
I CrosS-TCF relationship 

Fig. 3: The TCF and TCC 

The TCP implements a number of functions to support itself as 
a virtual resource container: 

1. TCF administration: As a compute unit operating atop a virtu- 
alization stack, there are administrative tasks pertaining to the 
operations of the TCP itself These include secure boot-up and 



shutdown under the owner's control, migration and the secure 
archiving of one or more TCC inside a TCP. 

2. VM provisioning dC management: When a TCP is to be 
launched, a virtual machine (VM) must first be provisioned 
that suits the desired TCP. These include processes that interact 
with the underlying layers (e.g., hypervisor layer), processes for 
memory management, processes related to security manage- 
ment, and others. 

3. Framework bootstrapping: Inside the TCP, there are several 
processes that need to be started and managed relating to the 
support of the TCC. These include shared databases, API end- 
points, registries, and so on. Some of these processes will be 
utilized by the applications that are run by the TCC. 

4. Portal, policy 8c applications management: Since the TCP by 
design supports the importation and the running of applications 
as part of the TCC these applications must be instrumented and 
managed through the TCP. It is envisioned that much of the 
social network supporting applications wiU operate inside the 
TCC, allowing the TCC to support virtual individuals, groups 
and institutions. 

5. Security 8C self-protection: As an infrastructure supporting 
TCCs, the TCP must provide security and resiliency against pos- 
sible attacks (e.g., DDOS attacks from external sources, interfer- 
ence from adjacent VMs in a multitenant environment, etc.). 

Security and Privacy Considerations 

There are a number of security and privacy requirements for a 
TCP /TCC design and implementation. These features protect the us- 
er's personal data in the Personal Data Store inside the TCC, and as- 
sure that the TCP operates as a virtualized resource container in the 
manner for which it was designed, regardless of the cloud provider 
platform on which it is running. Some key security and privacy re- 
quirements include unambiguous identification of each TCC instance, 
unhindered operations of a TCC instance and its enveloping TCP, and 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 151 

truthful attestations reported by a TCC instance regarding its internal 
status. [4] 

There are a number of new and emerging trustworthy comput- 
ing technologies that can be used to address some of the security 
and privacy requirements of the TCC and TCF design. For example, 
a hardware -based root of trust could be used as the basis for truthful 
attestations regarding not only the TCF (and the TCCs it supports), 
but also for the entire virtualization stack. The wide availability of 
hardware such as Trusted Platform Module (TPM)[10] on both client 
and server hardwares can be used as a starting point to address the 
security needs of the TCF and TCC. Cloud providers that seek to 
provide high assurance services could make use of these technolo- 
gies to increase the security of their virtualization infrastructure. [4] 
Features such as "trusted boot" of a TCF could be deployed more 
widely if these trustworthy computing hardwares were deployed by 
cloud providers. 

A number of features of the TPM hardware could be used today 
to increase the security of the TCF and TCC. For example, the "seal- 
ing" capability of the TPMv2.0 hardware could be used to provide 
data-at-rest security to a TCF. In such a scenario, when in-rest (not 
in operation) a TCF could be encrypted and the keys then be bound 
to a given hardware platform (e.g., bound to the TPM hardware be- 
longing to the cloud provider or the TPM hardware in the owner's 
portable device). In this way, the launching of the TCF can be cryp- 
tographicaUy possible only with the presence of the TCF-owner (i.e., 
a human owner). Similarly, a secure "TCF migration" protocol could 
be envisaged based on the migration protocol designed for the TPM 
hardware. [5] Such a migration protocol would allow a TCF-owner 
to safely move their TCF from one cloud provider to another with a 
higher degree of assurance.[6] 

How TCC and TCF Enable Users to Self-Organize OMS 

A key aim of the OMS project is to provide new infrastructure for 
the Internet that enables people to create their own highly distributed 
social ecosystems for governing shared resources, including their per- 



sonal data. The OMS uses the notion of manifests to express modes 
of operations for a given TCP as well as the rules of behavior for a 
community that has been established using a TCP. 

When one or more users seek to establish a self-organizing com- 
munity, they must define the purpose of the community and a num- 
ber of "operating rules" that are expressed internally within the TCP 
as manifests. Some of these operating and behavioral rules can be 
complex. Por example, the manifest must be able to represent and 

• how the group is to be formed, governed, managed and 

• how users interact and share information based on indi- 
vidual consent; 

• what data is collected, and how they are accessed, stored 
and logged/ audited; 

• access policies and access-control mechanisms by which the 
data is protected; 

• how a user may join, suspend or withdraw from the com- 
munity or institution, and how their personal data can be 
extracted upon departure; and 

• what data is retained regarding a departed user and the fact 
of his/her participation in the community or institution. 

It is worth emphasizing here that a human person may partici- 
pate in several digital communities, own and operate multiple TCPs, 
and thereby have "sHces" of their personal data spread across several 
digital communities (without any sharing of information among 
those communities). In all these instances, OMS requires individual 
consent, control over personal data, and data sharing as an opt-in 
choice. The personal data stores are heterogeneous distributed re- 
positories to protect the individual against unauthorized collection 
of data, inference and linking of data that violates the privacy of the 
individual. [7] 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 


Fig. 4: Portal TCCs and Community TCCs 

Private and Portal TCCs 

The design of the TCC is intended to allow TCCs to be re-com- 
binable and embeddable units of logic, computation and storage. An 
individual person at minimum can represent himself or herself as a 
solitary unit by creating a lone or private TCC cell contained within 
a TCP (see Fig. 4(a)). 

However, life becomes more interesting for that person if he or 
she participates in a digital community through the use of one or 
more TCCs that he or she owns and controls. Using the same cell 
paradigm, the person can launch another distinct TCC that he or she 
can then use to establish a community-shared TCC. We refer to this 
as a Portal TCC because it represents an entry-point or portal to a 
shared TCC running shared applications. This is abstractly shown in 
Fig. 4(b). 

A portal TCC allows its creator to predefine the purpose of the 
TCC, the applications allowed to operate in the TCC and the rules- 
of-operation (manifests) that govern the TCC. A complete and func- 
tioning portal TCC is thus referred to as a Community TCC. In order 
to be accepted into and participate within a Community-TCC (Fig. 
4(b)), an individual newcomer must agree (opt-in) to the terms of 
participation of the community as expressed in that TCCs manifest. 
Such manifests are accessible through public APIs as a means for "dis- 
covery" of resources in that Community-TCC. When a Portal-TCC 



(Fig. 4(b)) seeks to participate in a larger community, we refer to it as 
an Institution-TCC. An Institution-TCC has its own manifests that 
must be accepted by Community-TCCs and individual TCCs before 
they can join the Institution-TCC. 

A New Stack for the Future Internet 

In order for society to obtain the benefits of personal data as the 
new asset class, a new personal data ecosystem must evolve where 
every stakeholder has equitable access to data and other resources 
within the ecosystem. Such equitable access must be available not 
only to individuals in real-world communities, but also to emerging 
digital communities and institutions. 

We believe that a new vision is needed for seeing the Internet, 
personal data and digital institutions in a consistent manner, some- 
thing akin to the Internet TCP/IP stack or the 7-layer ISO stack. 
Such a stack - termed the digital institution stack[8] - would be use- 
ful for viewing the evolving personal data ecosystem and its role in 
the digital institution. Such a logical set of layers or "stack" allows the 
stakeholders in the ecosystem to understand better their roles in the 
ecosystem and to define with greater clarity the services or functions 
that they offer, and the services of other stakeholders upon which 
they rely. Fig. 5 illustrates one such possible stack. 


Institutional Applications 


Digital Institutions 


Data Commons 


Personal Data Ecosystem 


Data Transport Layer 

Data Transport Layer 

End-Point A 

End-Point B 

Fig. S: A New "Digital Institutions Stack" for the Internet 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 


The digital insitutions stack in Fig. 5 consist of the following lay- 
ers (from bottom to top): 

(a) Data Transport Layer; This is essentially the Internet as we 
know it today including the various propietary social net- 

(b) Personal Data Ecosystem Layer: This layer contains the personal 
data ecosystem entities. This ecosystem is today in its nascent 
state, as a number of infrastructure requirements - both tech- 
nical and legal infrastrctures - need to be established before 
individuals and organizations are willing to share their data in 
an equitable manner. 

(c) Data Commons layer: This layer builds upon the layer beneath 
it by making data - personal data and institutional data - 
available to the broader population of Internet users as a 
common-pool resource and under a distributed legal trust 
framework or contract. The consumers of the data may not 
belong to a given community in the personal data ecosystem, 
but in order to access any data in the common pool they must 
sign on to the legal trust framework. 

(d) Digital Institutions Layer: Certain specific "digital institutions" 
or communities may emerge that rely upon one or more data 
pools within the underlying layer. This is the 4th layer from 
the bottom of the stack in both Fig.s 5 and 6. The idea here is 
that certain online organizations or communities can be es- 
tablished for specific purposes that make use of the common- 
pool data and provide value-added to their members. 

We believe cross-layer distributed legal trust frameworks will 
play a key role in the future. The distributed legal trust frame- 
work that governs this worldwide digital organization must 
not be in conflict with the frameworks that govern the pools 
of data from which it reads. As such, we believe there will 
be a growing need for distributed legal trust frameworks, which 
amount to contracts that are verifiable through computation 
- a version of the so called "computational law" engine. 



(e) Institutional Applications Layer. The uppermost layer is the 
institutional applications layer - something akin to Layer 7 
of the ISO Internet model. A digital institution may use the 
data, which it obtains from the layer below, for multiple ap- 

Fig. 6 provides a concrete example of how this new stack of pro- 
tocols could facilitate new types of scaleable, trusted uses of data. 
We use a hypothetical Australian vineyard, but we could just as eas- 
ily illustrate the workings of this stack for data from other domains, 
such as data from the health science areas and cancer research. In our 
example, a small vineyard collects various data and puts them into its 
own Vineyard PDS (Personal Data Store). This data is localized to the 
vineyard, and some of its data points maybe context-specific to that 
region of Australia (e.g., land quality, temperature ranges, etc.). 

As we see in Layer c, the "Data Commons Layer," the many lo- 
cal vineyards in Australia may wish to establish a common pool of 
vineyard data covering all or the majority of vineyards in Australia. 
Depending on the legal trust framework governing this data pool, 
certain identifying information could be removed (either when the 
data are contributed into the data pool, or when any data are read 
from the established data pool). Similarly, a group of European vine- 
yards could create their own common pool of data pertaining to their 
members (and their members only). 

But imagine that a worldwide digital organization of craft winery 
enthusiasts decides that it would like to access data from the Austra- 
lian as well as from the European common pools of data. As shown in 
Layer d of Fig. 6, this fictitious digital organization could, for exam- 
ple, perform in-depth data analysis and make the findings available to 
its members. The availability of fine-grain data from the PDS of the 
members (two layers below) could be exposed to the organization, 
thus making its predictions about future yields from different regions 
of the world more accurate. But such fine-grain analysis would be 
possible only if local vineyards agreed to share their data through 
standards APIs to the data commons layer; if the vineyards could see 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 


commercial value of sharing the data; and if the privacy protections 
provided at the digital institutions layer were reliable and secure. 

To take this hypothetical one step further, the fictitious digital 
organization (the worldwide association of craft wineries) may wish 
to establish a digital currency system that is asset-backed - using the 
very data in the common pools as the backing for the currency. The 
accuracy and provenance of the data in these data pools (at the per- 
sonal data ecosystem layer, b, would become crucial to the viability 
of digital assets trading of the future. 



Virtual Currency System 

(Digital asset-backed using Craft Winery members PDSs) 


Digital Institutions 

Worldwide Association of Craft Winery 

(Community in Digital Space) 


Data Commons 

Vineyard Data Pool 

(Australian members) 

Vineyard Data Pool 

(European members) 


Personal Data 
Ecosystem Layer 






Data Transport 





Fig. 6: Example of Digital Communities and Digital Institutions 

Conclusions and Future Work 

There are a number of future challenges that we want to address 
using the OMS as a platform for research: 

A new Internet stack for digital institutions: There is a need to broad- 
en the notion of "layers" of the (future) Internet by introducing a 
new "stack." Such a stack should identify distinct layers pertaining 
to the personal data ecosystem, the open data commons, and digital 
institutions. Just as in the Internet stack of today, in the Digital Institu- 
tions Stack each layer makes use the of "services" of the layer below 
it, while exposing new services and APIs to the layers above it. We 
envision that new Internet services will appear in each of the layers, 
and that each layer will evolve to become an ecosystem unto itself 



Computational law: The notion of self-governance is core to the 
value proposition of communities operating using the TCP and TCC 
constructs. As such, there needs to be a new perspective regarding 
"law as algorithm" where rules could be automatically enforced by 
the TCCs. In other words, law, by common agreement, could be 
made self-enforcing in communities that operate the TCFs and TCCs. 
The rule engine inside the TCC could be developed into a digital "law 
enforcement engine." 

Protocols for personal data exchange: A new generation of protocols 
needs to emerge that view Personal Data Stores (contained within 
TCCs) as legitimate API end-points. Such a protocol would be key to 
making personal data a true digital asset. Not only would these new 
protocols exchange data, but also observe, negotiate and enforce the 
legal trust frameworks governing the usage of personal data. 

Thomas Hardjono is Technical Lead and Executive Director of the M.I. T. Consortium 
for Kerheros and Internet Trust. Hardjono acts as a liaison with key external stakehold- 
ers who participate within M.I.T-KIT community, and as the technical lead establishes 
the strategic direction of its projects. 

Patrick Deegan is Chief Technology Officer of ID3 and Lead Architect of OMS. 

John H. Clippinger is Executive Director and CEO of ID3 and Research Scientist at the 
M.I. T. Media Lab Human Dynamics Group. 

We wish to thank Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland fom the M.I.T Media Lab for his 
support in this work as well as Stephen Buckley from the M.I.T. Kerberos and Internet 
Trust (M.I. T.-KIT) consortium for his ongoing support. 


[1] David P. Reed, "That Sneaky Exponential - Beyond Metcalfe's Law to the Power 
of Community Building," 1999, available on http:/ / 
gfh/ reedslaw.html. 

[2] Elinor Ostrom, "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Com- 
plex Economic Systems," 2009, Nobel Prize Lecture, December 8, 2009. Avail- 
able on http: / / 

[3] David BoUier and John Henry Clippinger, "The Next Great Internet Disruption: 
Authority and Governance," ID3, 2013, available on http: / / 

[4] See, e.g., Trusted Computing Group, "TPM 1.2 Specifications" (2011), available 
on http:/ /; and J. Zic and T. Hardjono, "To- 

Hardjono, Deegan & Clippinger \ ID3's Open Mustard Seed Platform 


wards a Cloud-based Integrity Measurement Service," Journal of Cloud Comput- 
ing: Advances, Systems and Applications, (February 2013). 

[5] Trusted Computing Group, "TCG Interoperability Specifications for Backup 
and Migration Services (vl.O)," Trusted Computing Group, TCG Issued Specifi- 
cations, (June 2005), http:/ /www. resources. 

[6] S. Berger, R. Caceres, K. A. Goldman, R. Perez, R. Sailer, and L. van Doorn, 
"vTPM: Virtualizing the Trusted Platform Module," in Security 06: 15th USENIX 
Security Symposium (Vancouver, Canada, July- Aug 2006), available on www.use- 

[7] Alex Pentland, "Data Driven Societies," 2012, available on 
edu/pentland. See also World Economic Forum, "Personal Data: The Emer- 
gence of a New Asset Class," 2011, available on http:/ / 
ports / personal-data-emergence-new-asset-class. 

[8] Thomas Hardjono, Patrick Deegan and John Henry Clippinger, "On the Design 
of Trustworthy Compute Frameworks for Self-Organizing Digital Institutions," 
in Proceedings of the 2014 Human-Computer Interactions International Conference 
(June 2014). 

Chapter 14 

The Relational Matrix: 
The Free and Emergent Organization 
of Digital Groups and Identities 

By Patrick Deegan 

The Internet was initially architected without consideration for a 
secure, viable identity infrastructure. Passwords were an afterthought 
and there was Uttle consideration given to privacy and how individ- 
uals could assert control over their personal data. There have been 
many attempts to remedy these shortcomings and there are growing 
open source and industry initiatives to deal with these issues.[l] These 
factors combined with the move towards "personal data clouds," mo- 
bile and sensor data, and the recognized importance of protecting 
and sharing personal data, is forcing a fundamental rethinking of the 
global Internet architecture for secure and privacy-preserving com- 
munications and computations. 

What is clear is that the current infrastructure cannot be simply 
uprooted and replaced, and that the next "authentication, privacy and 
sharing layer" has to grow organically on top of the existing layer. 
Fortunately, a combination of technologies for the self-deployment 
and administration of services with new encryption, identity au- 
thentication and access controls technologies and protocols are mak- 
ing it feasible to scale new self-deploying infrastructures. Such new 
approaches make it possible for social groups to naturally emerge 
where individuals can control their own personal data in many ways 
that allow for a balanced, transparent and law-based approach for ex- 
pressing and enforcing individual and group data rights. The Open 
Mustard Seed (OMS) platform represents an open source effort to 
enable such an architecture on a global scale. 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 



The Open Mustard Seed project is an opensource Trust Frame- 
work for developing and deploying web apps in a secure, user-centric 
personal cloud.[2] In this sense, it is both a Platform as a Service mod- 
el (PaaS) as well as a basis for building global digital identity infra- 
structure and data asset ecosystems. Specifically, a Trust Framework 
is a combination of software mechanisms, contracts, and rules for 
defining, governing, and enforcing the sharing and protection of in- 

A typical Trust Framework is described and often decomposed 
into Technical and Operational Specifications in conjunction with a 
set of legally binding Rules (Policies). Thus, the system itself is de- 
signed to orchestrate and execute the specifications and policies ac- 
cording to common, predictable, and independently verifiable stan- 
dards of performance. The goal is for all parties to trust that the 
system wiU regulate, enforce and maintain the obligations of all par- 
ticipants in a transparent and auditable manner. To this end, we focus 
on the development of an ecological model for social/ civic engage- 
ment, one that provides identity assertions in a manner such that all 
relying parties are subject to independent and autonomous contracts 
for data rights enforcement, whether those participants are repre- 
sented by individuals, groups (e.g., elected representatives), system 
entities (e.g., autonomous agents), companies or even governments. 
In this sense, the Open Mustard Seed Trust Framework defines the 
processes and procedures that provide mutual assurance between 
"Institutions" and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO) 
and Decentralized Autonomous Authorities (DAAs) with respect to 
privacy, performance and remediation. 

One of Open Mustard Seed's main goals is to operationalize the 
creation of decentralized digital institutions in a generic framework, 
emphasizing Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY) principles. In doing so, we 
recognize the need for a framework that allows for interoperability 
at scale, while providing a development environment for applications 
that can specify the requirements and rules that govern user partici- 
pation in an extensible and reusable manner. 



Below are some of the criteria reflecting a NSTIC (National Strat- 
egy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace) perspective on organically 
creating an operational and autonomous Trust Framework:[3] 

• Register devices (e.g., Quantified Self Internet of Things, 
Personal Robotics) and associate / manage self-enforcing poli- 
cies in the Trust Networks originated by the user; 

• Assign access control policies on Personal APIs with built in 
support for a combination of "building blocks" that consti- 
tute a Trust Framework; 

• Automate digital asset custodianship in a manner that can 
be independently audited (e.g., demonstrate standardized 
policy enforcement or regulatory compliance execution for 
data retention, logging, provenance, metatagging, etc.) and 
verified-grounding trust in various algorithmicaUy proven 
metrics for system-wide transparency; 

• Allow the user to extend Personas (user driven data objects 
containing attributes, scopes and a pseudonymous digital 
identity) in a privacy-preserving manner to allow them to 
advertise any associated data rights assigned to the Persona 
to create an ecosystem of client networks (e.g., integrate 
with digital currency platforms, law enforcement, social net- 
works, etc.) in a consistent manner for the user; 

• Allow Groups to provide structure for automating system 
deployment as a natural, holonic network, enabling all ap- 
plications built upon the framework to exploit the "central- 
ization" of data originated at multiple interdependent scales. 
Groups themselves can generate valid Personas; 

• Establish an evolving basis from which users can assert their 
personal identity. OMS requires the dialog to include the us- 
ers themselves as new standards are codified and OMS is con- 
tinuously improved upon; 

• Participate in contractually executed compute and data ag- 
gregations, generating new APIs and verifiable chains of 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


trust-allowing users to anchor sovereign identity and apply 
relations to simultaneously meet the needs of participation 
in a multitude of social and trust-based networks (the Groups 
in the digital space around them). Data rights as assigned by 
Personas applies to Group Personas, thus operationalizing 
another holonic dimension - aggregation of scopes of dy- 
namically registered group members' clients and the DAO 
contractually managed linking/ delinking that allows for un- 
wrapping of members' rootlD's and their respective Perso- 
nas' attributes (e.g., unwrapping counterparty risk with abil- 
ity to view signed and time-stamped snapshots and compare 
against realtime quantification) in a manner that is indepen- 
dent of any party or actor in the system; 

• Integrate with a secure discovery service in the form of a 
Decentralized Autonomous Organization asserting itself as a 
publicly accessible Portal Trusted Compute Cell (TCC) with 
APIs that provide Persona lookup CorelD verification servi- 
ces while meeting the recommendations of the Jericho Fo- 
rum "Identity Commandments"; 

• Contract posting maintenance to be carried out by registered 
pseudonymous Personas; and 

• Provide a basis for humans to manage multiple digital identi- 
ties and give them agency to act on their behalf, while en- 
gaging in automated processes to discover and curate the 
relations these Persona could form by participating in Trust 
Networks for the mutual benefit of the whole ecosystem 
having to implement the commons and use digital currency 
as shared resource. 

Thus the Trust Framework itself provides a stack of core technolo- 
gies that work together to provide a high level of security and ease of use 
when computing upon sensitive information. This includes: sharing and 
collecting personal and environmental data; controlling Web-enabled 
devices; engaging with others to aggregate information and view the 
results of applied computation via protected services; and participat- 



ing in market creation and clearing events that allow parties to ex- 
ecute contracts that set forth the rules and obligations when it applies 
to managing and exchanging data rights and their associated risks. 

The Hierarchy of Structural Decompositions in OMS 

Trust Network 

• Defines context, curation of institutional policies 

• Containment for common norms or system- wide 
contractual obligations 

• Utilizes Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) 
technologies at various scales for the automated provision- 
ing of trusted resources in conjunction with Personas and 

Trusted Compute Cell 

• Deployable Virtual Machine; Implements core functionality, 

• Hosts containers, scalable computation 

• Exposes RESTflil APIs 

• Authentication/ Authorization via Policy Manager driven 
OpenID Connect 

Trusted Application Bundle 

• Application deployment pattern 

• Decentralized platform integrity assurance 
Open Mustard Seed Root Identity modules 

• Groups 

• Personas 

• Root Identity Infrastructure with Biodynamic Authenti- 
cation and Secure Element or Trusted Platform Module 
(TPM) backed rootID 

Trust Network 

In OMS, Trust Networks form distinct ecosystems. That is, an 
enterprise, an NGO, government agency, social network, academic 
institution, an artist collective or even an individual, can each host its 
own private cloud defining their own set of rules - while still remain- 
ing beholden to the organizational structures they exist within (e.g.. 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


automatic regulatory compliance based on physical location). Even 
though these are thought of as distinct Trust Networks, the virtual 
and physical infrastructure that composes them are likely to be mas- 
sively varied and shared amongst many. For example, a Trust Net- 
work can be defined as the internal chat network that family mem- 
bers use to sync amongst themselves and thus might be contained in 
a small set of virtuaHzed services hosted from a single source, such as 
their home entertainment system. On the other side of the spectrum, 
OMS could be used to develop a clone of a global social network 
(Facebook), only it would be distributed, autonomous and under the 
control of a group comprised of billions of Personas, accountable to 
user-centric data control, completely personalized, etc. 

Noting that Trust Networks can also scale to be as complex as 
serving a multiplicity of simultaneous purposes, OMS employs fed- 
erated single sign-on and user-managed access models to orchestrate 
massively distributed aggregations of data. To make managing such a 
deployment even feasible, any solution must embrace system design 
principles that emphasize stability-enhancing behavior. Thus OMS 
takes an ecological approach for the composition of services running 
at different sources with different users / admins at many levels in the 
hierarchy. Living systems are organized in such a way that they form 
multi-leveled structures, each level consisting of subsystems which 
are wholes in regard to their parts, and parts with respect to the larg- 
er wholes. [4] We caU systems that exhibit these properties a "holar- 
chy" and the individual units themselves are known as "holons." (See 
Chapter 11, "The Logic of Holonic Systems," by Mihaela Ulieru.) 
This enables Trust Networks in OMS to provide a middle ground 
between network and hierarchical structures, and exhibit four basic 

• Self-preservation 

• Self-adaptation 

• Self-Referencing 

• Self-dissolution 



Trusted Compute Cell 

OMS allows developers to implement web services that are easily 
queued, monitored, and decommissioned in a trusted environment 
in the cloud. This is accomplished by use of secure computational 
containers. A Trusted Compute Cell (TCC) is the virtuaHzed equiva- 
lent of the minimal Trust Network (a Group of one) that remains ful- 
ly interoperable within OMS. TCCs are currently defined around in- 
dustry standard Virtual Machine environments. For instance, a TCC 
can be deployed to the Rackspace Public Cloud (via OpenStack) or be 
hosted within a Public Cloud's virtualized environment (VirtualBox); 
both are equivalent for all intents and purposes. 

Since they provide all the privileges of a DAO, TCCs are typically 
employed as the basic unit of individual control over their data. That 
is, each Trusted Compute Cell (TCC) can serve as a Persona Manager 
for the user, providing the necessary operations in order to issue cre- 
dentials in accordance with attribute-based access control policies. In 
its simplest form, an online digital identity is formed by users estab- 
lishing their rootID within a TCC, allowing them to authenticate and 
grant themselves access to their own data. High assurances can be 
granted to the user by establishing a verifiable hardware and software 
chain of trust in conjunction with biometric based authentication. 
Fortunately, this functionality can be automated through the manner 
in which the TCC is configured. 

From this point, the system architecture uses nested tiers of 
Trusted Compute Cells networking the individual, fully controlled 
cell (Private TCC) with other self-governed Group TCCs, and pub- 
licly accessible Portal TCCs. The idea is to enable trusted social rela- 
tionships and collaboration that can scale. 

Central to the proposition that users should control their own 
data is the Personal Data Store (PDS). For the user, access to their 
PDS resource is regulated through their TCC. The TCC enforces 
API permissions logic, referring to the user's privacy and sharing set- 
tings to determine whether to allow a particular operation on an API. 
This allows TCCs to provide protected access to shared data for the 
purpose of computing results that do not violate the rules and per- 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


missions of users, the installed applications, or the Trust Network 
wherein they reside. 

A user's private sphere /hub is the set of Private TCCs that over- 
see his or her identities and personal data services. From this perspec- 
tive, the user can see all of his or her data. This root /hub presents 
visibility/ accessibility into aU that "grows" irom the data (the identity 
anchor point from which all builds in relation to), as illustrated below: 

Personal registry for the data 

• All that the user collects, 
produces, manages, distributes, 
(for which they exercise their 
data rights). 

• Privacy settings 

• Linkage to social hubs or 
aggregation points, interfaces to 
curate personas 

• Dashboard for managing 
the installation and availability 

Network ofVirtua! Resources 
under control of Registry of appS and SCrvicCS 

Rule Engine 


User and 


OMS as a trusted 

x'-^'^^^J Services 

AiiHitina v ^ c 

compute infrastructure 
enables users to contrib- 
ute to or interact with 
collective computation 
(serving the members of 
trusted group as well). 
Although there is a sig- 
nificant complexity in the 
underlying infrastruc- 
ture, OMS is designed so that the individual and even developers are 
shielded from this complexity by higher level interfaces that simplify 
both privacy setting and sharing choices and the requirements of de- 
velopers to comply with privacy and security policies. 



Trusted Application Bundle 

The Trusted Application Bundle, or TAB, contains digital legal 
contracts that outline the opt-in terms of agreement for online in- 
teractions provided by the deployment of the APIs contained within 
the tab's Manifests. These agreements are subsequently enforced, 
on behalf of the persona - within the TCF to which the TAB instance 
was deployed. Furthermore, TABs specify what data may be collect- 
ed, accessed, stored, how it may be used, etc.; what access-control 
mechanisms and policies will govern data; and the "constitutional 
rules" by which groups may form, manage themselves, and evolve. 

To a user. Groups may be logically separated by the classes of 
contractual obligations they opt-into upon registering a Persona 
within the group context (data rights grant) or by installing a TAB 
and inviting other personas to join that TAB's group. The installable 
TABs may be specified (and even distributed) by the entity hosting the 
Trust Framework and are the means for the institution to reflect rules 
and permissions options granted to its members. Thus, every Group 
is anchored and deployed in the context of its governing Trust Net- 
works via association with a particular instance of an installed TAB. 
This is the relational matrix that reflects the meaningful information 
to the user. 

Distributed systems can form such that each node can originate 
independently yet still remain interoperable across trans-institutional 
boundaries. Yet still, in OMS, the physical infrastructure and the soft- 
ware running on it determine a measurable or quantifiable Quality of 
Service for each distinct instance of a deployed TAB. This Interface/ 
Abstraction Boundary also facilitates application of existing third- 
party certification of protocols and standards. 

It is common for users to have groups they would like to keep 
separate (fuUy secure) but stiU be able to make chat connections with 
within a single interface. This potentially requires that they maintain 
completely separate virtual infrastructure, including root-of-trust 
pathways for each instance of the client application. In order to fa- 
cilitate standardization around deployment patterns, we modularize 
around the TAB, allowing multiple instances to be installed and as- 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


sociated with distinct personas. A user may also replicate their de- 
ployments across many different hosted systems for added assurances 
around redundancy availability security etc. This enables hosting to 
be commoditized at every scale. 

It is like having separate copies of Skype running for each alias 
you might use day-to-day: colleague, friend, family, etc. However, 
with OMS the perspective can be controlled by the user or their proxy 
since they are the only ones that can re-aggregate all of their perso- 
nas. This enables the UX to present views that are composed from 
data aggregated across various sets of their persona allowing for uni- 
fied, convergent visualizations, reconstructing the 360-degree view 
of themselves. 

TABs further include provisions for enforcing: 

• What data is collected, accessed, stored, logged, etc. 

• How users interact and share information 

• How groups are formed, governed, managed, and evolved 
(See Chapter 12, "The Algorithmic Governance of Com- 
mon-Pool Resources," by Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu) 

• How Markets and Exchanges can be built on top of decen- 
tralized data rights through contract enforcement 

Identity Infrastructure 

A root identity infrastructure provides a way for each person to 
own their single underlying root identity (i.e., the "Core Identity") 
and to bind several Personas to that Root Identity without the need 
for other parties to access the Root Identity or be aware of any other 

The root of the chain of trust is anchored to a single physical 
token. From there a user can generate many downstream Personas 
- in this case, for use within an infrastructure that provides "authen- 
tication as a service." This means that user-centered and user-owned 
Root Identities can be leveraged for a "claims-based" federated iden- 
tity without giving up the Root Identity or unique information to 
every requesting party or other counter party or being aware of any 
other persona. Furthermore, it is possible for multiple aliases, ac- 



counts, and attributes to be authenticated in a reliable, privacy en- 
hancing, and scalable manner. 

In relationship to PDS or digital vault, rootID cryptographicaUy 
originates keys for decrypting and controlling access to PDS. As such, 
rootID is portable and allows the user to backup "credentials." OMS 
realizes that unless there is a framework enabling interoperability, 
each institution could possibly offer a unique data 'vault' to their cus- 
tomer leading to massive fragmentation of the user's "identity." 

Bootstrap rootID 

Open Mustard Seed is developing a open registration and au- 
thentication algorithm for supporting sovereign identities that are 
bootstrapped by the user and carry attributes verified by their online 
interactions and by attribute authorities within the rootID infrastruc- 
ture. Users can install a native app that collects data to establish a 
biometric/behavioral "fingerprint" (Personal data + Social Interac- 
tions + Sensor Data = Unique "Signature") for themselves to be used 
as their credential for authenticating into their Private Clouds.[6] The 
native App further provides data-driven services (via a secure vault 
for storing high-value personal data assets) and sets up OMS in the 
background. This can be done such that the user doesn't see any dif- 
ference from how they install apps today except for the obvious no- 
tices about their data and opt-in agreements will be OMS. 

Moreover, the Private TCC is meant to run in a myriad of loca- 
tions where there is no central administrator. This ensures that when 
user's data is imported, provenance /origination/ indexing/ meta- tag- 
ging/ filtering/ etc. wiU be automatically applied, as obligated by the 
installed governance principles, independent of the deployment. 

What is a Persona? 

A persona represents an aspect of a user's digital identity. Grant- 
ing a persona to an external (to the user) agent represents delegating 
an aspect of the user's self to that agent. A good way to think about 
this relationship would be as a power of attorney: a physical being au- 
thorizes some legally recognized entity to act on their behalf in some 
capacity. That entity is implicitly granted any access required in order 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


to fulfill that capacity, and anything done by that entity is considered 
as if done by the physical being directly. 

Moreover, a persona is a self-contained composite object with 
embedded data or attributes. These attributes contain a list of scopes 
that determine the access the persona can be granted for a particular 
API. Thus, when a persona is granted to a client, the client is im- 
plicitly granted any scopes it has in common with the persona. In 
order to provide a convenience to the user, Personas can be created 
with different sets of scopes, consistent with particular contexts of 
the user. For instance, a "banking" Persona can be specified with a set 
of scopes that enable applications to access a user's financial informa- 
tion while a "friends and family" Persona could provide access to a 
user's photos and calendar information. 

Besides containing scopes as attributes, Personas can carry gener- 
ic information and provide a means for user to interact with other us- 
ers in a trusted manner without revealing personal information. That 
is, personas are either anonymous, pseudo- anonymous, partially veri- 
fied or fully verified. Verified Personas have attributes that have been 
digitally signed by a rootID Attribute service so that services can de- 
termine the validity of claims that Personas present without requir- 
ing direct access to the user that created the Persona in the first place. 
[7]This data-driven functionality builds from initial provisioning of 
rootlD. This process anchors the user's identity in digital equivalent, 
PDS vault containing the "body" of Personal Information the user 
owns/ controls. Subsequently, the user projects their identity through 
the equivalent to "identity proxies" or Personas. This allows the user 
to participate in particular contexts without having their identity ex- 
posed (or personal data leaked about them without their expressed 
approval). [8] 

OMS solves a number of interrelated problems about Big Data 
and the digital marketplace. A user may not know with whom they 
are really transacting, nor can they readily verify that their privacy 
preferences are actually respected and enforced. Users are often wary 
of exposing or sharing their data with third parties whose trustwor- 
thiness is not known. In this context, it is not surprising that protect- 



ing one's personal information is seen as antithetical to commercial 
and governmental uses of it. However, users can now think of creat- 
ing Personas in cases where they would like to control their privacy, 
e.g., use a persona for making an online payment where one of the 
attributes is a single -use authorization code. A Vendor can access Per- 
sona Attributes to verify shipping information, buyer reputation, etc. 
Both parties can feel protected while subject to automated dispute 
resolution and other protections. 

Users have not had an easy or reliable means to express their 
preferences for how their personal data may be accessed and used, 
especially when one context (a bank) differs so much from another 
(a healthcare provider) and stiU others (family and friends). As a con- 
venience for the user, each Persona can represent a different social 
norm or set of preferences, from which derivatives can easily be gen- 
erated. This is so the user is not overwhelmed with managing the 
privacy preferences separately for each context. 

Instead, for each context a user creates generalized /segmenta- 
tion/ template Personas and reuses them. For the default cases, Perso- 
nas can be defined and automatically prepopulated. Other Personas 
could be based on the results of predictive analytics applied to the 
user's behavior in such a manner that these Persona are highly likely 
to match the user's actual preferences, i.e., machine -learning can pre- 
dict most likely preferences and auto populate a Persona and then 
automatically apply it to the context/ application domain. 

"Ideally" every user wears self-initializing hardware rootID (Se- 
cure Element) that contains specialized hardware to generate public/ 
private keypair physically tied to the user. Since the private key never 
needs to leave these devices and cannot be accessed from outside, 
rootlDs, personas can be derived and used to represent the user in 
online transactions, and can all be trusted to a standard level of per- 

For the most secure and trusted systems, there needs to be root- 
ID installed at the sensor/ chip level for every device that exists with- 
in the Trust Framework. Even keyboards built into mobile devices 
themselves or user "owned" virtual machines would also need to be 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


paired with a secure element - if they are intended to be interopera- 
ble with any component of a Trust Framework that required a highly 
available chain of trust validation service. 

The more the infrastructure can provide the appropriate level of 
assurance automatically, for a given context, the more self-enforcing 
trusted transactions can become the norm. Presently a tremendous 
wave of new data-driven market ecologies is poised to thrive, in- 
cluding robotics, Internet of Things, Quantified Self geolocal-social 

Personas for Everything, Groups 

A group itself can be a persona; each unit is self-contained while 
also being connected to everything around it. This allows us to re- 
duce a "group" of personas and project it as a single persona that is 
afforded the consensus of the group and has the potential to leverage 
the sum total of all the resources available to its members. Our no- 
tion of groups may be quite novel and the implications are potentially 
very interesting. 

Ideally, OMS itself would guarantee that the group node could be 
trusted with total transparency into its process - enough so that the 
participants would all be equally represented and they would be will- 
ing to enter into contracts with high entropy-enabling flow-through 
mediating high-risk transactions. 

Data Asset Market - Executable Contracts 

Groups can be considered as a pattern suitable for enabling spon- 
taneous and variably lasting markets by connecting institutions with 
transferrable data rights. That is, a Group TCC's policy manager es- 
sentially implements data rights exchange automation for distributing 
OAuth tokens to invited guests based on the credentials they were as- 
signed by the acceptance of the invite (transfer of rights). This allows 
users in a chat channel to present themselves as authenticated and 
rootlD-backed identities while leveraging attributes to specify their 
projection, from anonymous to completely verified digital identity. 
Within particular contexts, typified by shared social responsibilities 
or market participation rules, the Policy Manager is also expected to 



adhere to higher priority policies defined by the encapsulating Trust 

Looking at it from another perspective: we just want to be able to 
hyper-dynamically create, read, update, and delete (CRUD) networks 
of input/ output sources and trusted computation. This takes us back 
to the problem of "how do we get the best use out of the fact that 
the largest network is the one that moves the most data through it 
(and that means being able to connect everything to it and allow each 
of those things to self assert their identity), provide some verifiable 
measure of trust?" 

This allows someone to walk into a restaurant, class room, client, 
hotel room, theme park, of the future and experience "bring your 
device to work" qualified security and have all the video cameras, 
keyboards, monitors, temperature sensors, microphones, every I / O 
device under rootID hardware. In the ideal world you get this much 
control over your data by being able to deploy your private infrastruc- 
ture yourself or through a trusted third party who maintains it in a 
way that they provably cannot access, imped or otherwise destroy 
your data. 


Open Mustard Seeds is an open platform as service intended to 
provide a powerful new self-deploying and self-administrating in- 
frastructure layer for the Internet, which gives individuals control 
over their identities and their data, and which enables the formation 
and self-governance of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, 
Authorities and Enterprises to enable the creation and exchange of 
"digital assets." At the same time, OMS provides a framework for 
the autonomous regulation and enforcement of diverse global data 
protection and financial policies. 

Moreover, OMS enables the definition, deployment, operational- 
ization and enforcement of Trust Frameworks at scale to enable Data 
Ecologies based upon transparency and trust. OMS meets not just 
the aspirational intentions of the Consumer Data Bill of Rights; it is 
fully operational, autonomous and scalable. It addresses many long- 
standing and confounding institutional issues such as "who guards 

Deegan \ The Relational Matrix 


the guards" and the "principal/ agent problem." It also solves issues 
related to the chain of custody for identity verification and interoper- 
ability, and respect for context and data-minimization. 

OMS differs significantly from other approaches in that it is self- 
deploying, self-healing, self-governing and self-enforcing and -cor- 
recting. It uses contracts not only to express and assert rights but to 
control how they are expressed. This is achieved through control over 
permitted data attributes and through the configuration, logging and 
correction of processes and VMs. Like the Bitcoin protocol, it uses al- 
gorithmic oversight and signing in preference to human intervention 
to enable efficiency, scale, performance, integrity, transparency and 
open innovation. It is based upon many open source bundles based 
upon the M.I.T. XI 1 open source license. 


[1] Over the last ten years there have been many concerted efforts to deal with iden- 
tity, authentication, and federation of access issues on the Internet and give us- 
ers control over their personal data. Some the efforts related to this work include 
Microsoft's Kim Cameron's Laws of Identity at http: / /; 
Project Higgins, a project started at the Berkman Center (http: / / www.eclipse. 
org/higgins); an industry consortium, Kantara (https:/ /; 
Project VRM, also started out of Harvard's Berkman Center (Project VRM, at; OpenID Connect ( 
connect); and more recently, from the Human Dynamics Group at the M.I.T. 
Media Lab, Open PDS (http: / / 

[2] The approach to a Trust Framework is similar in principle to that proposed by 
the Open Identity Exchange (OIDX, at http:/ / 
is-a-trust-framework) and the Open Identity Trust Framework (OITF) model 
with an important difference. The OIDX approach is based upon a loose set 
of industry principles and is not really open but is captive to the interests of its 
board and members. The Trust Framework presented here is an actual platform 
and an instance of Distributed Autonomous Organization. 

[3] National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is part of NIST 
(National Institute of Standards and Technology). See the website http: / / www. nstic. 

[4] Mihaela Ulieru and Rene Doursat, "Emergent Engineering: A Radical Paradigm 
Shift," International Journal of Autonomous and Adaptive Communication Systems 
(IJAACS), 4(1) (2011). 

[5] Much of the initial work on getting personal data for predictive analytics was ini- 
tiated at the M.I.T. Media Lab by Nadav Aharony (http: / / 
index.html%3Fn=Projects.Funf html), which also triggered the development of 



OpenPDS by Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, at 

[6] We are fortunate to leverage the open source version of OpenID Connect and 
OAuth 2.0 developed by Justin Richer of MITRE Corp., which is now being sup- 
ported by the M.I.T. Kerberos and Trust Consortia. We did make modifications 
of the MITRE version to support Personas. 

[7] IBM's IDMIxer ( 
php?id=664) and Microsoft's Uprove technology (http:/ / 
mscorp/twc/endtoendtrust/vision/uprove.aspx) provide zero knowledge 
proofs for protecting personal identity while providing requisite authentication. 

Chapter 15 

The Necessity of Standards for 
the Open Social Web 

By Harry Halpin 

For the first time in human history, the majority of our social com- 
munication - from our beloved photographs to our most intimate of 
chatter - is being captured by digital platforms, most of them closed 
and proprietary "social" platforms like Facebook and Google. This 
is a relatively recent but profound shift in the historical playing field, 
a massive digital accumulation and colonization of social life seem- 
ingly without bounds. 

This epochal shift is dramatic, but not especially surprising. The 
adoption of new languages and linguistic techniques - the process 
of grammatization - has long been at the center of profound politi- 
cal transformations.[l] In Europe, the great transition from feudal- 
ism to capitalism was intertwined with the transition in governance 
from monarchy to the nation-state - a transformation that itself was 
grounded in the spread of literacy amongst the former peasants. 

For generations, Latin could be read only by the clergy, a fact 
that served to marginalize the vast majority of the population. Yet 
with "industrialization of language" made possible by the printing 
press, literacy escaped the confines of the church and spread across 
the wider social realm. This social reality enabled many more people 
to engage in the "Republic of Letters" that constituted the founda- 
tion of the Enlightenment. Let us not forget that something as simple 
as the mass production of a Bible, in no small part due to Gutenberg's 
invention, was enough to cause religious wars throughout Europe. 

Yet mass literacy also paved the path for a new civilization: Who- 
ever thought that the formerly illiterate masses would self-organize 



the French Revolution? Bernard Stiegler points out the striking paral- 
lels of the digital revolution for our times. We live at the very brink 
of a similar cataclysm, Stiegler argues, as our very language - and 
eventually political and economic institutions - is digitized before our 
very eyes.[2] The algorithms and code that increasingly shape and 
govern our social existence are mostly controlled by a small corpo- 
rate oligopoly that, hand in hand with the secret state revealed by 
Snowden, has established a regime of exploitation and domination 
based on centralized control of digital communication. 

Hope is not lost, however: A new vernacular of our digital age - 
open standards - offers enormous potential for assuring that freedom 
and innovation can flourish. Open standards are critical because they 
prevent anyone from gaining unfair advantages or control over com- 
merce, politics and other realms of life. Anyone is able to create new 
code and to access data, much as people during the Enlightenment 
acquired the capacity to access knowledge in their native languages. 

The social impact of a new, accessible language of code is not 
hard to imagine. The Internet and Web are living examples of the 
catalytic power of open standards: TCP/IP and HTML serve as the 
literal building blocks of the Internet and Web, respectively, allowing 
any computer to join the Internet and any person to create a Web 
page. When anyone is empowered to contribute - not just creden- 
tialed "professionals" authorized by centralized, hierarchical institu- 
tions - the result is an explosion of creativity that can even overthrow 
governments: Witness Tahrir Square. However as witnessed by post- 
revolutionary Egypt, the hard problem is perhaps not the overthrow 
of pre-existing institutions, which seems to come about all too easily, 
but how a genuinely new social - and today, digital - realm can arise 
without domination and exploitation. 

Why Open Standards Matter 

Large institutions are increasingly using Big Data to assert insti- 
tutional control over our personal information and, in turn, what we 
can read, think, create and organize with others: The question is how 
to take that power back without losing its myriad advantages. To pre- 
vent the centralization of our data in the hands of a neofeudal digi- 

Halpin \ The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web 179 

tal regime and all the dangers that this entails, we urgently need to 
construct a new ecosystem of open standards to allow secure forms 
of digital identity that everyone from individuals to institutions can 
deploy without being "locked-in" to existing players. (See Chapter 13, 
"The ID3 Open Mustard Seed Platform," by Thomas Hardjono et al.) 

These new open standards not only be limited to providing the 
functions of the current regime of centralized social networking 
providers (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.), but go further in em- 
powering individuals to control their own digital identities and dig- 
ital communications. Simply using these platforms "as is" will not 
enable a flowering of innovation because much of the core control 
over identity - and thus control over how people may interact - will 
remain in the hands of a few centralized players who control user- 
name, passwords, personal data, metadata and more. These players 
naturally wish to control how personal data will be used because so 
much of their current institutional sovereignty and revenues depend 
upon it. 

Why shouldn't users be able to choose - and even create their own 
- self-sovereign digital identities? Why shouldn't identity creation and 
verification be based on open standards like the Internet? This is sure- 
ly the best guarantor against abuses of the data. To achieve this vi- 
sion, every element of a decentralized identity ecosystem would have 
to embrace standard protocols to communicate with other systems, 
much as all Internet and Web users must adhere to the TCP/IP and 
HTML protocols, respectively. Otherwise, users would be locked-in 
to their own system and unable to communicate with the rest of the 
Web. Ideally, even large social networking sites such as Twitter and 
Facebook would likely choose to use open protocols. If this were to 
be the case, those using open standards could even take advantage of 
the "network effects" of the tremendous numbers of users on these 
commercial platforms, while still having the privacy and power of 
controlling their own digital identity. 

Based on the precedents of the Enlightenment, the Internet 
and the Web, there is a great likelihood that open standards for data 
would unleash a new digital enlightenment whose transformative ef- 



fects we can only speculate about. It is clear that, faced with prob- 
lems whose structures and complexity are difficult to grasp - global 
climate change, the financial crisis and the spread of failed states - we 
desperately need to harness the potential power of an interconnected 
world. Open standards for identity are the first step. 

The Vital Role of Open Standards Bodies 

Open standards such as TCP/IP and HTML serve as the literal 
building blocks of the Web and Internet, allowing any computer to 
join the Internet and any person to create a webpage. These stan- 
dards were created by bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task 
Force (IETF) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which rely 
on a consensus-making process in an open and evolving group of 
members. The processes followed by open standards bodies are quite 
different from those used by conventional standard-setting bodies at 
the national level such as the American National Standards Institute 
(ANSI) or international bodies such as the International Telecommu- 
nications Union (ITU). In contrast to the standards-setting bodies of 
the Internet, these pre-Internet standardization bodies normally use 
formal processes to adopt standards via majority votes by representa- 
tives of a closed group, such as nation-states. 

This process - an open multistakeholder process - is never simple 
but seems to work remarkably well for technical standards. In light of 
the great success of the TCP/IP stack of protocols over the alterna- 
tive ITU-backed network stack OSI (Open Systems Interconnection), 
an open multistakeholder process has proven itself to be superior 
to traditional processes in creating effective, widely accepted open 
standards. Perhaps most interesting is that multistakeholder stan- 
dards bodies allow individual or institutional participation based on 
informality and merit, and not on the basis of political credentials or 
government roles. In the words of first Chair of the Internet Archi- 
tecture Board David Clark: "We reject kings, presidents and voting. 
We believe in rough consensus and running code. "[3] 

The Internet has achieved its stunning technical interoperability 
and global reach by bringing to the table a complex social network 
of interlocking and sometimes even institutional adversaries, rang- 

Halpin \ The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web 181 

ing from open source projects to companies such as Google and 
telecommunications providers. These institutions work together by 
agreeing to use a number of standardized protocols that are "loose- 
ly connected" (allowing for modest variations) and to respect the 
rather vaguely defined principles of Web and Internet architecture. 
[4] A mixture of hackers, government bureaucrats and representa- 
tives of corporations create and maintain these protocols via a small 
number of interlocking standards bodies such as the IETF and W3C. 
Through their technical protocols, these standards bodies play a vital 
role in defending the often-implicit guiding principles of the Internet 
and Web, such as net neutrality and the "end-to-end" principle, which 
are widely deemed responsible for the Internet's astounding growth. 

When the Internet was first being built, the Internet Engineering 
Task Force functioned as an informal network of graduate students 
who posted "Requests for Comments" (RFCs) for early Internet pro- 
tocols. Frustrated with the large number of incompatible protocols 
and identification schemes produced by the IETF, Tim Berners-Lee 
had the vision of a universal information space that he called the 
World Wide Web.[5] He built the Web as a quick prototype while 
working part-time at the European Organization for Nuclear Re- 
search, known as CERN. Berners-Lee sent the core draft specifica- 
tions for his Web prototype (based on protocols known as URL, 
HTML, HTTP) to the IETF as "experimental" specifications despite 
the rejection of his original academic paper by the 1991 ACM (Asso- 
ciation of Computing Machinery) Hypertext Conference. 

The IETF declined to approve a "Universal" or "Uniform" re- 
source identifier scheme (URIs), and large corporations started en- 
tering the IETF, potentially compromising the integrity of the stan- 
dard-setting process. This prompted Berners-Lee to establish his own 
standards-setting body, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to 
manage the growth of the Web. With offices in Europe, the United 
States, Japan, and even China, as well as a paid neutral technical staff 
of over seventy employees and a more formal process than the IETF, 
the W3C has managed to fend off monopolistic control of Web stan- 



dards and foster the development of the Web, including the adoption 
of such technologies as HTML5. 

The W3C and IETF now work closely together. In conjunction 
with ICANN, these standard-setting bodies serve as the core of the 
multistakeholder process of Internet governance described in the 
"OpenStand" principles ( 

The standardization process is not only concerned with the 
technical development of the standards, but with fostering an hos- 
pitable environment for patents. In the United States, unfortunately, 
software patents have become so expansive in scope that even free 
and open source software is sometimes accused of infringing on a 
patented idea, triggering mandatory licensing fees to patent-holders. 
Since patented software has become a large industry, it is important 
for any open standard to be freely useable by developers without fear 
of licensing fees or patent trolls. 

Open standards bodies such as the W3C are committed to stan- 
dards policies that allow both commercial and open source software 
to use the standards and stiU interoperate. For example, W3C's licens- 
ing commitments to HTML5 allow both commercial closed-source 
browsers such as Internet Explorer and open source browsers such 
as MoziUa to render the same web-page in a similar fashion to us- 
ers. This ensures that users are not stuck viewing the Web with a 
particular browser and that patent claims wrU not impede the future 
development of the Web. 

The IETF deals with patents through what has been called the 
"Note Well" agreement. The general point is that "in all matters of 
copyright and document procedures, the intent is to benefit the In- 
ternet community and the public at large, while respecting the le- 
gitimate rights of others."[6] However, the IETF does not guarantee 
royalty-free licensing via legally binding agreements. 

Given the high level of corporate competition in the Web, the 
W3C constituted itself as a membership consortium so that these 
legal agreements can be made (while inviting participation by open 
source developers, academics, government experts, and small com- 
panies via its "Invited Expert" process). These agreements essential- 

Halpin \ The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web 183 

ly bind existing patents to the W3C, allowing the W3C to act as a 
"patent war chest" for aU patents related to the Open Web and as 
a guarantor that patents wiU be licensed royalty-free to developers 
every where. [7] 

The "social web" - websites dedicated to social networking - is 
currently a very fragmented landscape. It has no central standards 
body and a bewildering number of possible protocols and phrases. In 
order for a new layer of social and identity protocols to be incorpo- 
rated into the rest of the Web via open standardization, it would be 
necessary in an ideal scenario, to establish a single set of standards for 
each step in how digital identity and social networking are currently 
managed in existing closed, centralized data silos, and then adapt 
them to an open and decentralized world. 

Open Standards and Digital Identity 

Identity is the connection between descriptive data and a human 
or social institution. As such, identity essentially serves as the "digital 
name" of some entity. Particular ways of encoding that name are 
identifiers. Identity systems go far beyond simple natural language 
names such as "Tim Berners-Lee." Berners-Lee has a phone number 
which, with an internationalized calling code and a USA phone num- 
ber, would consist of 10 digits. These digits are not connected to the 
Internet in an obvious way. However, with the advent of the Internet, 
a number of new identification schemes has come into being, such 
as email addresses like or even Facebook accounts like 
"Tim Berners-Lee" (https:/ / 

Interestingly enough, while one's natural language "proper 
name" is in general registered and controlled by the government as 
a matter of law, identifiers ranging from phone numbers to e-mail 
addresses to Facebook accounts tend to be controlled by private in- 
stitutions such as corporations. For evidence, simply look at what is 
after the "@" symbol in any email! This proliferation of identifiers 
that have no standard way of interoperating has led some technical 
observers to propose the establishment of an identity ecosystem in 
which the various identities and relevant data of persons and organi- 
zations could be integrated. This in turn would enable new services 



and more efficient transactions, while continuing to allow people the 
freedom to use pseudonyms or remain anonymous. 

One strategy for achieving this vision is to chose a common iden- 
tifier to bind together all of a user's identities, which in turn would 
determine who controls the identifier. The earliest technical paper to 
reaUy broach the question of user-controlled identity and personal 
data is the 2003 article, "The Augmented Social Network: Building 
Identity and Trust into the Next-Generation Internet," by K. Jordan 
et al.[8] The authors proposed to "build identity and trust into the ar- 
chitecture of the Internet, in the public interest, in order to facilitate 
introductions between people who share affinities or complementary 
capabilities across social networks." The ultimate goal was to create 
"a form of online citizenship for the Information Age." 

Although the paper was ambitious in scope and wide-ranging in 
a vision for revitalizing democracy, the concept was never taken to 
a standards body. Instead, an entrepreneur, Drummond Reed of a 
company called InterMinds, created a new kind of identifier called 
XRIs (Extensible Resource Identifiers). This protocol was designed to 
replace user-centric identifiers with a for-profit monopoly on identity 
controlled by Reed himself [9] When Reed claimed on a public mail- 
ing list that there were patents on XRIs, Tim Berners-Lee called for 
them to be rejected, and the W3C intervened so that the proposed 
XRI standard was indeed rejected from the OASIS standards body 
(Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Stan- 
dards). [10] As an alternative, Berners-Lee supports the use of URIs 
("Uniform Resource Identifiers," previously known as URLs or "Uni- 
form Resource Locators") as identifiers not just for webpages, but for 
all sorts of things that could be connected to the Web. For example, 
Berners-Lee's URI would be 
Lee / card#i. The idea would be to use URIs to leverage the infrastruc- 
ture of the Web to enable even more versatile functions and services. 
Yet very few people use URIs to address themselves, and standards 
that embedded URIs failed to build a decentralized social web. 

In response to the lack of uptake of URIs as identifiers, develop- 
ers considered e-mail addresses rather than URIs for portable identifi- 

Halpin \ The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web 185 

ers. The reason is simple: Email addresses are very personal and users 
remember them naturally, unlike URIs. Email addresses are associ- 
ated with a concrete set of embodied actions, namely checking and 
reading email inboxes, and so are more easily remembered. While 
both URIs and email addresses depend on the domain name system, 
users do not actually control their own email addresses; the owner of 
the domain name does. So for the email address, the 
W3C controls the domain name on which it is hosted. 

In the case of services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, the 
identity of the user is completely controlled by the corporation and 
the user has no rights over their digital identity - a power that is even 
more controlling than that exercised by nation-states (over passports, 
for example). Corporations exercise these powers over identity even 
though they do not own domain names indefinitely, but lease them 
from domain registrars who ultimately lease them from ICANN - 
which has the lANA (Internet Assigned Names and Numbers Author- 
ity) function to distribute domain names on lease from the U.S. De- 
partment of Commerce. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there have been successful 
attempts to create a fully decentralized identifier system based on 
distributed hash-tables. But none of the solutions like Namecoin 
or telehash has been standardized and both require users to use an 
indecipherable cryptographic hash instead of a human-memorable 
identifier for their identity. While Tim Berners-Lee may not think is a great identifier, he would surely balk at using /4d- 
8blb7f4e3ec7449822hd80ce61165 as his identifier! 

The main purpose of an identity ecosystem is to enable the use 
of personal data; that is, any data pertaining to a particular human 
being or institution under autonomous control. Currently, social net- 
working "sUos" such as Facebook, Google-I- and Twitter mostly trade 
in low-quality social data, such as names and lists of friends - as well 
as shopping preferences. However, there have been moves towards 
enforcing higher quality standards and verified personal data, such 
as the use of a "real name" policy in Google-h. Google-I- and Face- 



book have also sought to link phone numbers as well as geolocation 
to identities in their proprietary silos. 

Notwithstanding these gambits, high-value data such as credit 
histories and medical records are to a large extent still controlled by 
traditional institutions such as banks and hospitals. The thesis put 
forward by the World Economic Forum in reports such as "Personal 
Data: A New Asset Class" is that high-quality personal data currently 
"locked" away in traditional institutions could serve as a valuable in- 
put into data-driven innovation.[l 1] This in turn could enable a whole 
new realm of efficient transactions and community-driven social in- 

The vision is that users should control their own data via per- 
sonal data stores, also called "personal data lockers." These personal 
data stores consist of attributes, such as fuU name, phone number, 
bank balance and medical attributes. Various systems can be used to 
double-check these attributes by various means, including machine- 
learning and background checks, all of which would be used to cre- 
ate verified attributes. By controlling their own data, users could then 
enter into contracts that would enable powerful services in exchange 
for their data. Users could also establish their own self-organized 
"trust frameworks" via algorithmicaUy backed, legally binding agree- 
ments. (See Chapter 13, "The IDS Open Mustard Seed Platform," by 
Thomas Hardjono et al.) 

The act of claiming and then using an identity can often be bro- 
ken down into two distinct elements: authentication and authorization. 
The first step, authentication, is when some proof of identity is of- 
fered, often thought of a credential-like password or even some secret 
cryptographic key material in a smartcard. Services called identity pro- 
viders require authentication to access personal data, and may also 
associate (possibly verified) attributes with an identity. 

Note that authentication does not necessarily reveal any identify- 
ing characteristics and so may keep the authenticating entity anon- 
ymous. One such effective technique is "zero-knowledge proofs," 
which allows a user to authenticate his or her identity without reveal- 
ing a legal name or other attributes to the identity provider.[12] Of 

Halpin \ The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web 187 

course, different kinds of identity providers or even the same identity 
provider may host different personas, and different levels of security 
may require different kinds of credentials to authenticate. 

Right now the primary method of authentication is the user- 
name and password, but due a number of serious security breaches, 
this standard technique is likely to be improved. Current approaches 
tend to try to associate either some private cryptographic key mate- 
rial (such as that on smartcard or mobile phone) or even biometric 
data with a credential. StiU, there are currently no open standards in 
this space for this approach. The W3C Web Cryptography API may 
eventually make high-value authentication an open standard by en- 
abling lower-level cryptographic primitives. [13] 

The second step of identification is authorization, which occurs 
after there has been a successful authentication of a user. With autho- 
rization, a user can authorize the transfer of attributes between ser- 
vices. The identity provider can provide personal data in the form of 
attributes to a relying pariy, the service that wants identity attributes. 
Consider the case of a user who wishes to log in to a new service and 
wants his or her profile - including name and picture - to show up in 
the new service. The user may authorize an existing identity provider 
such as Facebook to transfer identity attributes to the relying party. If 
not already logged into Facebook, this is typically done via having the 
user be redirected to Facebook and then authenticating to Facebook 
via a username-password using the proprietary Facebook Connect, 
and then asking the user to explicitly approve the relying party's ac- 
cess attributes stored on Facebook. After the user accepts the transfer 
of personal data, they are redirected back to the then-personalized 

From a privacy standpoint, the identity provider (Facebook in 
this example) observes all personal data transactions with all relying 
parties and so is able to build a map of the user's web services. Worse, 
there is nothing technically preventing an identity provider from do- 
ing personal data transactions without the user's consent. Today, a 
number of open standards exist for authorization, the most promi- 
nent of which is OAuth, managed by the IETF [14] A particular pro- 



file of personal data for OAuth is called OpenID Connect, which has 
been refined and extended by the Open Identity Foundation. 

Given that users currently have no control over what data is being 
processed about them via authorized transactions, a set of standards 
are in development called User-Managed Access (UMA), which aim 
to put the entire flow of personal data under user control. [15] The 
combination of this suite of standards, still under development and 
needing considerably more work, has potential to produce open stan- 
dards for authorization of personal data transactions. 

One of the features of social networking is the movement of real- 
time data like status updates given as "activity streams" by sites such 
as Facebook and Twitter. While the traditional Web has focused on 
static content served via webpages, the social web is moving towards 
a "real-time Web" of heavily personalized content. While Twitter, 
Facebook and Google all have proprietary methods for real-time up- 
dating in their social networks, there have been a number of pro- 
posed standards to tackle the much harder problem of a decentral- 
ized real-time Web. The key of the real-time Web in the context of 
decentralized social networking and personal data stores is to dynam- 
ically update other nodes in the network based on social activities or 
the appearance of new data. The most popular format for open sta- 
tus updates is ActivityStreams[16] and a wide variety of architectures 
have been proposed for distributing and re-collating these streams. 
This standard-setting work, along with APIs that make it easy for de- 
velopers to use, have commenced in the W3C Social Web effort.[17] 

There has been far less research than needed on privacy and se- 
curity in decentralized social networks. In fact, decentralized social 
networks are not a priori more secure than centralized silos, as the 
sending of messages between nodes in a decentralized social network 
reveals the social relationships of the users to a global passive adver- 
sary with much less trouble than a centralized social networking silo. 
Yet currently there does not exist a decentralized social network that 
doesn't reveal such valuable data via traffic analysis. 

Hope is not lost: It is plausible that a decentralized identity sys- 
tem could be created that is even resistant to the pervasive surveil- 

Halpin \ The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web 189 

lance of the NSA. However, this will require considerable new re- 
search and difficult implementation work, especially for anonymity 
measures like cover traffic, a way of shielding network traffic from 
global passive adversaries like the NSA. 

One can easily imagine a possible future where, rather than hav- 
ing our digital identities controlled by either nation-states or major 
corporations, we control our own identities and determine how we 
interact digitally with the wider world. Access to our online lives has 
become such an essential foundation of our everyday lives that access 
and control of one's own data may soon be considered as completely 
natural by "digital natives" as control over one's own body is in any 
post-slavery society.[18] For the moment, this vision stiU remains ul- 
timately Utopian - something that exists mostly as a vision to inspire 
and guide a few programmers who are trying to correct our danger- 
ous socio-economic trajectory towards centralized control over our 
social lives. Programmers dream in code. 

Yet there are also reasons to believe that this Utopia has a fighting 
chance of becoming reality. Open standards bodies like the IETF and 
W3C are taking up the task of defining new identity standards. The 
language of open standards that could serve as the new vernacular 
for our digital age is being created in the here-and-now by concerned 
engineers. What is conspicuously absent is a larger vision that can ap- 
peal to the vast swathes of humanity that are not already part of the 
technical standardization process, and so could galvanize a new social 
movement suited for this digital age. Strangely enough in this era of 
cybernetic governance, we are suffering from a failure of communi- 
cation. Those who can comprehend the current dangers of having 
our identities outside of our own control and those who understand 
the latent potential for standards-based autonomous digital identity 
must surely at some point find the words to express themselves in a 
way that can be widely comprehended. After all, the revolutionary 
call for an open social Web is being driven by the self-same collective 
feeling that historically has driven innumerable revolutions before: 
the desire for freedom. 



Harry Halpin is a Research Scientist at W3C/ M.I. T., where he leads efforts in cryptog- 
raphy and social standards. He is also a visiting researcher at L'Institut de recherche et 
d'innovation (IRI) du Centre Pompidou, where he works with Bernard Stiegler on the 
philosophy of the Web. He holds a Ph.D. in Informatics from the University of Edin- 
burgh and his thesis has been published as Social Semantics (Springer, 2013). 


[I] Auroux, Sylvain, La revolution technologique de la grammatisation (Editions Marda- 
ga, Paris, 1994). 

[2] Stiegler, Bernard, Prendre soin (Flammarion, Paris, 2008). 

[3] http: / / tao.html. 


[5] Berners-Lee, Tim, Weaving the Web (Texere Publishing, London, 2000). 

[6] The entire Note Well agreement - http:/ /www.ietf org/about/note-well.html 
- explains this in much more detail in RFC 53789 and RFC 4879. See https:/ / and https:/ / 

[7] The W3C Royalty-Free patent policy is publicly available at http: //www. The entire standardization pro- 
cess is described in the W3C Process Document and is available at http: / / www. 

[8] Jordan K., Hauser J., and Foster, S., "The Augmented Social Network: Building 
Identity and Trust into the Next-Generation Internet," First Monday, 8(8), (Au- 
gust 4, 2003), available at 
view/ 1068/988. 

[9] https:/ / committees /tc_home.php?wg_abbrev=xri. 

[II] World Economic Forum, Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class (2011). 

[12] Fiege, U., Fiat, A., and Shamir, A., "Zero Knowledge Proofs of Identity," in Pro- 
ceedings of the ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC '87) (ACM Press, 
New York City, 1987), pp. 210-217. 


[14] http: / /tools. ietforg/html/rfc6749. 

[1 5] https: / / kantarainitiative . org / confluence / display / uma / Home. 
[16] http: / / 

[17] http: / / 2013 / socialweb/ social-wg-charter.html. 

[18] Berners-Lee, T, and Halpin, H., "Defend the Web," in Digital Enlightenment Year- 
book,}. Bus, M. Crompton, M. HUdebrandt, and G. Metakides, Eds. (lOS Press, 
Berlin, 2012), pp. 3-7. 


A Digital Manifesto: The Windhover Transition 

Internet activists met for a retreat in August 2013 at Windhover Farm in 
Jefferson, New Hampshire. The goal: to articulate a shared vision for a next 
generation social Internet that is trusted and responsive to human and eco- 
logical needs. Three days of discussion yielded a statement, "The Windhover 
Transition, " which is intended as a discussion draft to provoke ongoing pub- 
lic dialogue. Another retreat was held in August 2014 at Windhover Farm; 
other retreats are contemplated in Europe and Africa. 

The Windhover Transition 

At this moment in history, as a planet and a people, we are en- 
gaged in a profound self-reinvention of unprecedented scale, oppor- 
tunity and peril. We are hurtling toward a future for which we are 
wholly unprepared, which is being critically shaped by digital tech- 
nologies, and the mobile Internet in particular. 

The Windhover Transition is an open global community dedicated 
to imagining and inventing the principles, norms, technologies and 
institutions needed to make such a transition successful. Meeting this 
challenge requires new ways of seeing, thinking and acting. We see 
human endeavors as dynamic and holistic - as parts of larger, living 
systems, natural and humanly imagined, whose expressive, evolving 
elements constitute each other's identity and behavior. In contrast to 
some technological libertarian movements, we do not see the indi- 
vidual as the starting point or end point, or as set against or above the 
group. Rather, both the group and the individual are indivisible and 
mutually defining. 



This perspective represents a profound shift in human awareness 
because it recognizes that our species is co-evolving with assembla- 
ges of digital and biological technologies that themselves are clashing 
with incumbent social and political systems. As this process acceler- 
ates, it is intensifying and redefining the very boundaries of human 
identities and our relationships to our own built artifacts. 

One thing is certain: our species must identify new ways to act 
as conscientious, self-reflective stewards of a future that integrates 
our own well being and that of our fellow creatures, digital and bio- 
logical. We urgently need to develop new knowledge for cultivating 
harmonious, vital relationships with natural and constructed ecosys- 
tems. This entails identifying and defending new definitions of sover- 
eignty beyond the traditional nation-state and classic democratic in- 
stitutions. In this quest, it will be particularly important to recognize 
the sovereignty of the individual-group to self-organize new forms of 
collective action in transnational ways. 

The focus of the Windhover Transition is to develop generative 
social practices, habits of thought and technological design that are 
commensurate with the magnitude and velocity of challenges facing 
humankind. These new approaches are based on empirical and ex- 
perimental evidence, not ideology or prejudice. The new approaches 
privilege open, accessible systems and rely upon scientific inquiry in 
the design and experimentation of new forms of governance and so- 
cial design. Testing, questioning, revision and invention are central to 
this process of discovery and institutional transformation. 

Such a worldview entails a comfort with incomplete, complex, 
competing changing and pluralistic perspectives. Attempts to know 
should be rigorous, even skeptical, but always open-minded and toler- 
ant. This mindset is not about reduction and control, but about inclu- 
sion, sharing and empathy - while remaining wholly realistic about 
what works and committed to institutions that are accountable. 

A Digital Manifesto: The Windhover Transition 


A Declaration for Innovation in Trusted Social Sovereignty 

The following are some guidelines for the social technological 
design and innovation to further social sovereignty and sustain- 
able self-governance. 

1 . All peoples shall have a sovereignty of equal and unobstructed access 
and control over the data, algorithms, sensors and other means 
by which their unique biological and behavioral identities are to 
be defined and recognized. 

2. All peoples shall have the sovereign right of global self-assembly for 
self governance, whereby any individual can form their own Dis- 
tributed Autonomous Organization or Enterprise with others for the 
production and allocation of resources, goods and services. 

3 . Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAOs ) shall: 

• Continuously evolve to achieve requisite transparency need- 
ed to achieve both accountability and trust. 

• Continuously evolve to reduce transaction and coordination 

• Use contracts and agreements that are self-executing and self- 

• Keep open and secure logs of performance / activities of all 
members of DAOs to achieve transparency and to encourage 
learning and self-correction. 

• Minimize sanction costs and penalties to avoid litigation 
costs, adverse countermeasures and needless social disrup- 

4. DAOs shall have the right to self-governance using experimentation 
and the invention of new mechanisms for participation, gover- 
nance, adjudication, dispute resolution, allocation of resources 
and proceeds, inclusion, exclusion and market exchange. 

5. DAOs shall have the authority to issue digital currencies and form 
digital asset exchanges that reflect the values and interests of 



their individual DAO, which shall be free to trade and exchange 
for other currencies of value. 

6. All peoples shall be able to rely upon an independent and open global 
commons to provide the technological support for open digital 
identity, governance algorithms and metrics so that claims of au- 
thenticity about individuals, groups, things and processes can be 
independently tested and verified. 

7. All individuals and groups shall have sovereign control over their per- 
sonal data assets and their right and ability to move them easily 
from one Distributed Autonomous Organization to another. No 
DAO or other party should be allowed to coerce an individual 
or group to relinquish or share data or services that violate their 
personal dignity and agency. 


Aadhaar, 66, 94 
Acxiom, 18 
advertising, 30 
Africa, xv, 92-96 
Amazon, 32 

American National Standards Institute 

(ANSI), 180 
anarchistic communities, xviii, 42-47 
Andreesen, Marc, 67, 68 
Andreesen Horowitz, 67 
anonymity, 15 
Anonymous, 23 

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) 

regulations, xix, 16 
Apache (software), 33, 55 
Apple, 32, 57 
Arab Spring, 23 
Argentina, 86 
artisan culture, xvii, 29-35 
artists, 37, 51-54 
Aspen Institute, 54 

Association of Computing Machinery 

(ACM), 184 
authentication, 14-17, 101, 186 

See also encryption technologies, 

Trusted Compute Cell (TCC), 


Compute Framework (TCF). 
authority 21-28 

Bank of International Settlements, 84 
Bateson, Gregory, 74 
Beautiful Trouble, 43 
Behar, Yves, 50 

Behlendorf, Brian, 55 
Berkeley Open Infrastructure Network 
Computing Grid, 107 

Berners-Lee, Tim, 43, 181, 183, 184, 

Bey Hakim, 43, 55 
Big Data, xii, viv, 12, 13, 24, 26, 145, 
171, 178 

See also data and personal data. 
Bitcoin, xi, xv, xviii, xix, 12, 14, 43, 
66-71, 95, 104, 108 
block chain (distributed ledger), 
106-107, 108 

decentralized trust and, 68 

volatility of, 68, 108 
Bitcoin Foundation, 66 
BoUier, David, xvi, 21-28, 145 
Boulder, Colorado, 48 
branding, xvii, 30, 32-33 
Bristol, England, 90 
British Museum, 63 
Brown, John Seely 54 
Brown, Steve, 42 
Burning Man, xi, xvii-xviii, 36-59 

art and culture at, 51-54 

Bay Lights, 55 

Burners Without Borders, 55-56 
Burning Man Global Leadership 
Community, 54-55 

and Las Vegas Downtown 
Project, 50, 57 

"Ten Principles of Burning Man," 

freedom vs. civil order, 45-47 



Burt, Ron, 10 

Central Banks, xiii, 12, 89 
China, 32 

Chinese philosophy, 76-79 
Citibank, 65 
Clark, David, 180 

Clippinger, John H., xiv, xvi, xxi, xxii, 

11-20, 21-28, 143-159 
collective action, 121-123, 136-137 

Set also Elinor Ostrom and 

culture, xvii. 

Coalition for Green Capital, xx, 104 
common-pool resources, 130-142, 144 
commons, 25, 130-142, 155, 156 

and allocation of common-pool 

resources, 130-142 

data commons, 25, 131-133, 
144-145, 155, 156 

tragedy of 131, 138 
See also Elinor Ostrom and common- 
pool resources. 
contrarians, 9 

cooperation, 4, 23-24, 29, 39, 117 
CouchSurfing, 42 

CRUD (create, read, update, delete) 

networks, 174 
cryptocurrencies. See also Bitcoin, 

Money, Ripple and Ven. 
Cusolito, Karen, 52 
customization, 32-33 

Daly, Herman, 82 

Das Mann, Dan, 52 

data, xii, 18, 101-102, 137, 174-175 

See also Big Data and data 

data assets, 174-175, 186 
data brokers, 18 

data commons, 25, 144-145, 155, 156 
Death and Life of Great American Cities 
(Jane Jacobs), 39 

Decentralized autonomous 

organizations (DAO), xiii, xvi, 
161, 163, 166, 174, 179, 188, 

Deegan, Patrick, xxii, 26, 143-159, 

democratic institutions, x, 184 

accountability problems of xiii, 

structural limitations of, xii, 11, 
13, 22-24, 138-139 
Windhover Transition manifesto, 

Diaconescu, Ada, xvii, xxi - xxii, 130- 
142, 144 

digital assets, xi, xii, xix, 18-19 

digital currencies, xv, xviii - xix, 12, 


in Africa, xx 

cryptocurrencies, 66-71, 95-96, 99, 
104, 106-107 
digital banking, 95-96 
and environmental support, 98 
and government, 70, 96 
Impala, 95-96 
and Ven, 93-103 
digital identity, xi, xxiii, 14, 15-16, 
65-66, 92-94, 146-149, 166-169, 
179, 183-189 

identity credentials, 23, 186 
identity management, 146-147, 

See abo Open Mustard Seed, Trusted 
Compute Cell (TCC), Trusted 
Compute Framework (TCC). 

digital institutions, 155-157 

digital law, 24-25, 144-145, 158 

diversity in groups, 9-10 

dogecoin, 107 

Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY), 161 
Dwyer, Molly, 78 

Einstein, Albert, 89 

encryption technologies, xii, xxiii, 15, 

16-17, 102 
Encyclopedia Britannica, 22 



Enlightenment, x, xv, 179 
entrepreneurs, 29 
Equifax, 18 
Experian, 18 

Facebook, 22, 93, 98, 165, 177, 179, 

183, 185, 187, 188 
Fenton, Casey, 42 
fairness, 5, 134-136, 138, 140, 141 
Federalist Papers, 37 
finance, xi 

Five Star Movement, 23 

Fleishman, Glenn, 68-69 

flows, 6-9, 73-79, 81-83, 113-114, 117 

Flux Foundation, 52 

free market, 3 

Freespace, 54, 57 

Friedman, Milton, 84 

From Ritual to Theater: The Human 

Seriousness of Play (Victor Turner), 


Fukuyama, Francis, 22 

Garrett, Rod, 48, 49, 50 
Glazer, Ed, 50 

Google, 31, 93, 177, 180, 185, 188 

governance, x-xi, 23-24, 26-27 
and holocracy, 127-129 
and legitimacy, 23, 27 
and sustainability, 74-83, 134 
of common-pool resources, 

See also institutions. 
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, 54 
Green Coins, xv, xx, 104-110 
GridCoin, 107 

Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 76, 82 
Group Forming Networks (GFNs), 
xvi, 21-28, 143-144 

Halpin, Harry, xxiii, 177-190 
Hardin, Garrett, 131 
Hardjono, Thomas, xxii, 26, 65, 
143-159, 186 

Harvey, Larry, xviii, 37, 40, 42, 44, 45, 

48, 51, 56 
Hirshberg, Peter, xvii, 36-59 
Hobbs.Jess, 52 
holocracy 125-127, 139-140 
holonics, xv, xx-xi, 113-129, 139-140, 


Hseih, Tony, 50 
Huawei, 93 

Hub Culture, 97-98, 99, 100-103 

HubID, 102-103 

human rights, 1 1 

Hundt, Reed E., xx, 104-110 

Hurricane Katrina, 55 

Impala (African currency), xv, 95, 96 
inclusivity 40, 96, 123 
India, 94 

information theory, 74-75 
innovation, 30-35 

Institute for Institutional Innovation 

and Data-Driven Design (ID3), 

xiv, XV, 143 
institutions, xiii, xvii, 12, 14-15, 36-37, 

73-79, 82-83, 113-117, 131-141-, 


algorithmic governance 
institutions, xiii, xvii, 12, 14-15, 
22, 25, 131-141 

and common-pool resources, 

and hierarchies, 114-117 
design principles of commons, x, 
xiii, 13, 25, 40-42, 132-133 
and holonic design principles, 
114, 125-128 

as living systems, xxi, 73-79, 81-83, 

and purpose, 125-127 
and scale, 138-140 
self-correcting, xvi, 11-13, 193-194 
self-organizing, xii, xv, xvii, xxi, 
xxiii, 13, 25, 36-37, 113-114, 125, 
131-134, 140, 160-175, 193-194 



See also Decentralized autonomous 

organizations (DAO ), Elinor Ostrom, 

governance and holonics. 
Internal Revenue Service (IRS), xix 
International Telecommunications 

Union (ICU), 180 
International Monetary Fund (IMF), 


Internet Assigned Names and 

Numbers Authority (lANA), 185 

Internet Corporation for Assigned 
Names and Numbers (ICANN), 

Internet Engineering Task Force 
(IETF), 180-182, 187, 189, 190 

Internet of Things, 162, 173 
Italy, xvii 

Jacobs, Jane, 39 

JeflFerson, New Hampshire, xxiii, 191 
Jordan, K., 184 
Jung, CO., 76 

Keats, John, 78 
Kenya, 95 

Know Your Customer (KYC) 

regulations, xrx, 16 
Koestler, Arthur, 115, 139 
Krugman, Paul, 70 

Lao Tse, 76 

Las Vegas, Nevada, 50 

Law, John, 45 

Ledgard, Jonathan, xx, 92-96 

Lessig, Lawrence, 23 

libertarianism, 12, 45-47, 106, 123, 191 

Lietaer, Bernard, xix, xx, 73-91 

Linkedin, 179 

Louisiana, 55-56 

Lulzsec, 23 

Mani, Ankur, 5 
markets, 3-6, 30-31 

crowdsourcing, 30, 35 

as exchange networks, 3-5 

as "relational structures," 30-31 

mass production, 31-32 

McKinsey & Co., 64 

Mestieri culture, xvii 

Microsoft, 93 

Mississippi, 56 

M.I.T. Consortium for Kerberos and 

Internet Trust, xxii, 158 
M.I.T. Media Lab, xiv, xv, xvi, 101, 143 
Montjoye, Yves-Alexandre de, 15 
M-Pesa (currency), xviii, 95 
mobile devices, 15, 23, 64, 92, 95 
monetary system, xix, 83-90 

complementary currencies, 90 

and complex flow systems, 73-79, 


and ecological complexity, xix, 

efficiency vs. resilience in system, 

75-76, 79-883 

financial crises, 85, 86, 88 

German monetary policy, 85, 87 

history of 63-66, 74, 97 

monoculture of, xix, 73-74, 83-85, 


Window of Viability, 81-83, 86-88 

WIR (currency), 89 
Moore's Law, xiv, 25, 145 
Mt. Gox, 106-107 
Muak, Carmen, 56 
Museum of Modern Art, 55 

Nakomoto, Satoshi, 106 
Naoshima Contemporary Art 
Museum, 55 

National Security Agency (NSA), 189 
National Strategy for Trusted 

Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), 


Nest (thermostat), 31 
Nike Fuelband, 16 
Nixon, Richard, 84 



OAuth, xii, 16, 173, 187, 188 
Occupy, 23 

ODESS (Open-Distributed-Emergent- 
Secure-Self-Reflexive), xv-xvi, xxi, 

Odum, Eugene, 75 

open brands, 33 

open design, 32-33 

OpenID Connect, xii, 16 

Open Identity Foundation, 188 

Open Mustard Seed, xiv, xv, xxii, xxiii, 
18, 25-27, 43, 65, 94, 101, 139, 
143-159, 160-176, 
Core Identity, 169-170 
digital institutions stack, 155-157 
Personal Data Store (PDS), xxii, 
27, 94, 102, 143, 147, 150, 155-156, 
166, 186 

rootID, 164, 166, 169-173 
Trusted Application Bundle 
(TAB), 168-169 

Trusted Compute Cell (TCC), 18, 
145-148, 149-154, 158, 170 
Trusted Compute Framework 
(TCP), 26-27, 65, 145, 148-154, 
158, 160-165, 173 

Trusted Platform Module (TPM), 

open platforms, 21, 25-26, 30, 33-35, 

open standards, 177-180 
Open Systems Interconnection (OSI), 

Organization for the Advancement of 
Structured Information Standards 
(OASIS), 184 

Ostrom, Elinor, xvi, xxi, xxii, 25, 40, 
132-137, 144 

participatory sensing, 137 
patents, 182 

peer-to-peer transactions, 21 
Pentland, Sandy, xv, 3-10 
personal data, 18-19, 23, 25, 26, 65, 

101-103, 144-145, 147, 150, 152, 

160, 170, 171-172, 179 

Personal Data Store (PDS), xxii, 27, 
94, 102, 143, 147, 150, 155-156, 
166, 186 

personas, 17-19, 162-164, 170-173 
Pirate Party, 23 

Pitt, Jeremy, xvii, xxi - xxii, 130-142, 

privacy, xii - xiii, xxiii, 15, 26, 97, 143, 

187 See also Open Mustard Seed. 
product design, 31-32 
production, 29-35 
Publius, 37 

Quantified Self 162, 173 

Rand, Ayn, 12 

Reed, Drummond, 184 

Reed, David R, xvi, xxii, 21-28, 143-144 

Reed's Law, 21-28, 143-144 

Rescher, Nicolas, 134-136 

Ripple (currency), xviii, 14, 95 

Rossi, Maruizio, xvii, 29-35 

regulation, xii, 70 

risk management, xii 

Samsung, 93 

San Francisco, 36, 43, 45, 50, 54-55 
San Francisco, Cacophony Society, 

Schiller, Robert, 69-70 
Schottenfeld, Joseph R., xx, 104-110 
Schub, Jeffrey xx, 104-110 
security, xii, xxiii, 15, 16-17, 102, 

self-sovereignty 14-15, 19, 94, 101, 128, 

179, 189, 191-194 
Silk Road, 106 
Smith, Adam, 3, 5-6, 123 
social capital, 22, 144 
social contracts, 24-25 
social learning, 9 
social networks, 5-6, 29-35, 113, 

social physics, xv, 3-10 
Social Security numbers, 23 



SolarCoin, 107-108 
SolarCoin Foundation, 107 
solar cryptocurrency, xx, 104-110 
solar energy, 104-110, 136 
Spark: A Burning Man Story (film), 45 
Stalnaker, Stan, xx, 97-103 
standard-setting bodies, 180, 182, 184 
Stiegler, Bernard, 178 
Stross, Charlie, 70 
subjectivity 118-122, 124 
surveillance, 11, 188-189 
Switzerland, 89, 132 

Temporary Autonomous Zones 
(Hakim Bey), 42 

temporary autonomous zones, 42-45, 
55, 57 

Total System Throughput (TST), 82 
trust, xix, 4-5, 19, 22, 26-27, 145-146, 

172-173, 193-194 
trust fi-amework, xxii, 144, 186 
Trusted Compute Cell (TCC), 18, 

146-149, 150-156, 158-, 173 
Trusted Compute Framework (TCF), 

26-27, 65, 145, 148-153, 158, 

160-165, 173 
Trusted Platform Module (TPM), 151 
Turner, Victor, 53 
Twitter, 22, 179, 185, 188 

VUlareal, Leo, 55 
Voin, 102 

Vorarlberg, Austria, 90 

ways of knowing, 118-125 
Webster, Karen, 69 
West, Geoffrey 50 
Wikipedia, 22, 25 
Windhover Transition, xiv, xxiii, 

WIR (currency), 89 
Wladawsky-Berger, Irving, xviii, 63-71 
World Economic Forum, 65, 69, 186 
World Wide Web, xxi, 26, 43, 177-190 
World Wide Web Consortium, xxiii, 

180, 181, 187, 189 
Wriston, Walter, 65 

Xerox PARC, 54 

Yahoo, 93 

Yarne, Michael, 54 

Yin and Yang, 75-81 

Zappos, 50 

zero knowledge proofs, xii, 186 
Zooppa (advertising), 30 
Zuckerman, Mike, 54 

Ulieru, Mihaela, xx-xxi, 113-129, 139, 

UP (nonprofit), 54 

urban design, 39, 47-50 

Urban Prototyping Festival, 54, 57 

U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 38 

U.S. Department of Commerce, 185 

U.S. Federal Emergency Management 

Agency (FEMA), 56 
U.S. Treasury Department, xix 
User-Managed Access (UMA), 188 

Validsoft, 102 

value networks, 29-3 1 

Ven, XV, xviii, xx, 95, 97-103 

What can we learn from Bitcoin and Burning Man about re-inventing 
money and designing better forms of self-governance? 

Why are "decentralized autonomous organizations" the next great 
Internet disruption? 

From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond: The Quest for Identity and Autonomy in 
a Digital Society explores a new generation of digital technologies and currencies, 
strategies and projects that are re-imagining the very foundations of identity, 
governance, trust and social organization. The fifteen essays of this book stake 
out the foundations of a new future-a future of open Web standards and data 
commons, a society of decentralized autonomous organizations, a world of 
trustworthy digital currencies and self-organized and expressive communities like 
Burning Man. Among the contributors are Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the M.l.T. 
Human Dynamics Laboratory, former FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt, long-time 
IBM strategist Irving Wladawsky-Berger, monetary system expert Bernard Lietaer, 
journalist Jonathan Ledgard and H-Farm cofounder Maurizio Rossi. 

The essays of From 6i7co/n to Burning Man reflect the vision of the Institute for 
Institutional Innovation by Data-Driven Design— ID3— a Boston-based nonprofit working 
in cooperation with the M.l.T. Media Lab. Cofounded by Dr. John hi. Clippinger 
and M.l.T. Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland, ID3 is the developer of Open Mustard 
Seed (OMS), a new open source platform that gives users genuine control over 
their identities and personal data and the means to design their own currencies 
and institutions. People can collect and share personal information in secure, 
transparent and accountable ways, enabling authentic, trusted social and economic 
relationships to flourish. 

Dr. John H. Clippinger is cofounder and Executive Director of ID3 and Research 
Scientist at the M.l.T. Media Lab's Human Dynamics Group. He is a serial entrepreneur, 
technology innovator, and Co-Director of The Law Lab at the Berkman Center for 
Internet & Society at Harvard University, and is the author of A Crowd of One: 
The Future of Individual Identity (2007) and The Biology of Business (1998). 

David Bollier is Editor at IDS and an author, blogger and independent scholar/activist. 
He cofounded the Commons Strategies Group and is the author of twelve books, 
most recently Think Like a Commoner (2014).